EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents working at the El Paso port of entry seized 39.55 pounds of cocaine Wednesday. The estimated street value of the seized contraband is $1,265,600. The drugs were hidden in the spare tire of a car being driven by a woman who was carrying a pair of Santa Muerte pendants hidden in her clothing.
“Smugglers will sometimes carry symbols and good luck charms associated with drug smuggling,” said Beverly Good, CBP El Paso Port Director. “This smugglers luck ran out when she encountered the many levels of enforcement CBP employs at area ports of entry.”
The cocaine seizure was made at approximately 3:45 p.m. at the Bridge of the Americas international crossing when CBP officers and Border Patrol agents were performing a sweep of vehicles waiting in line before the primary inspection area. CBP drug sniffing dog “Cesar” alerted to 1998 Dodge Durango waiting in the queue. A CBP officer examined the undercarriage of the vehicle with a mirror and spotted signs of tampering.
CBP personnel moved the vehicle to the secondary inspection area to continue the exam. They scanned the spare tire with a “Buster” density meter and received high readings consistent with hidden contraband. CBP officers x-rayed the vehicle with the Z-Portal system and spotted bundles in the spare tire. The spare tire was removed and opened revealing 15-cocaine-filled bundles. CBP officers took the female driver into custody at which point she advised CBP officers she had a pair of drug smuggling related pendants tucked in her under garments.
CBP officers arrested the driver, 41-year-old Juana Romero Reyes of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. She was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations agents to face charges associated with the failed smuggling attempt. The baby and sister were turned over to an adult relative.
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.