CBP Seizes 116 Pounds of Smuggled Cheese and More
EL PASO, TEXAS—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agriculture specialists are noting an increase in smuggled food and agriculture items as many people return to the U.S. after spending the holiday in Mexico. They have recorded 21 smuggling incidents since December 28.
"During this time of the year it is not uncommon for people who spend time in Mexico to attempt to return to their U.S. homes with prohibited goods," said Hector Mancha, CBP El Paso Port Director. "We remind travelers that the CBP inspection process is thorough and violators face the risk of significant civil penalties."
CBP officers assessed $6,097.84 in penalties in the 21 incidents.
The largest penalty was assessed in a cheese smuggling case at the Paso Del Norte port of entry in El Paso on December 28, 2011. CBP officers were performing inspections when a 2008 Chevrolet HHR arrived at the primary inspection booth. CBP officers received a negative declaration for any plant, fruit, meat or vegetable products. CBP officers initiated a search of the vehicle and discovered 10 wheels of cheese hidden in the spare tire well of the car. The cheese weighed 116.5 pounds. CBP officers seized and destroyed the cheese and assessed a penalty of $697.84, which was the domestic value of the smuggled product.
Area CBP officers made 20 additional seizures of prohibited food and agricultural items in recent days including two incidents at area SENTRI lanes. In those cases the violators were assessed $500 penalties and lost their SENTRI trusted traveler crossing privileges. Prohibited items seized this week included raw pork, bologna, pork skins, tamales, eggs, fresh chicken, hawthorn apples, oranges, mangoes, sweet potatoes, yams, passion fruit, tangerines and live plants.
"The best course of action to avoid penalties and help prevent the spread of pests and disease in the U.S. is to declare all your items to CBP," said Mancha. "Every traveler is given multiple opportunities to declare their goods. If they declare the item and it is prohibited they can abandon it without incident. However, if they fail to declare the item, the product will be seized and they will face a $300 civil penalty."
While anti-terrorism is CBP's primary mission, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.