SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Border Patrol discovered human smugglers are using small unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as drones, to surveil agents on patrol.
At approximately 11 p.m. on Jan. 30, two Border Patrol agents encountered approximately 30 migrants crossing illegally into the U.S. through the cargo truck lanes at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. After they apprehended two migrants inside the port, additional agents pursued the remaining migrants as they fled north.
Smugglers were observed picking up several of the migrants, and ultimately transporting them to a suspected stash house in National City. The following day, as agents conducted surveillance on the house, several suspected undocumented subjects were observed attempting to leave the location in a white sedan.
Agents conducted a vehicle stop on the white sedan and interviewed the driver and the passengers. It was determined that the passengers in the vehicle were undocumented noncitizens who had recently crossed into the United States illegally. The driver was a 23-year-old male United States citizen (USC). After securing the vehicle, agents turned their attention back to the house. Upon entering the stash house, agents encountered a 35-year-old female USC, who was later determined to be responsible for managing the stash house. Two additional undocumented migrants were encountered inside the home. Agents also found $1,000 in cash and a fully loaded AR-15 style rifle.
During the subsequent investigation, arresting agents discovered footage that smugglers recorded of the Border Patrol agents encountering the 30 migrants crossing illegally the previous night. The footage was captured by a drone used by the smuggling organization.
“Human smugglers using drones to surveil the Border Patrol is a growing trend that we’ve observed along the border,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron M. Heitke. “This technology provides transnational criminal organizations with new capability that they are eager to exploit.”
Agents arrested the two U.S. citizens and charged them with human smuggling. They were both transported to a nearby detention facility. The cash, rifle, and the vehicle were seized by U.S. Border Patrol. The undocumented individuals were transported to a nearby station for processing.
To prevent the illicit smuggling of humans, drugs, and other criminal activity, the U.S. Border Patrol maintains a high level of vigilance on corridors of egress away from our Nation’s borders. To report suspicious activity to the U.S. Border Patrol, contact San Diego Sector at (619) 498-9900.