TUCSON, Ariz. – The arrest of two U.S. citizens Monday for attempting to smuggle more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $600,000, was part of a larger operation involving multiple U.S. Customs and Border Protection agencies.
An initial report released by CBP following the incident stated that Border Patrol agents from the Nogales Station were patrolling along Highway 82 when they spotted a suspicious Ford panel van headed east from Nogales. The vehicle then stopped at an intersection where the driver and a passenger exited and fled the location foot.
The two occupants, both adult U.S. citizens, were apprehended a short distance from the van. Agents then looked inside the van and discovered dozens of large marijuana bundles in the cargo area.
Meanwhile, two helicopters from CBP’s Air and Marine Operations – one with agents from the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) on board – responded to the area to search for possible accomplices. During their search, aircrew members spotted a group of 12 suspects walking south away from the highway.
BORTAC agents fast-roped from the helicopter and pursued the group of suspects on foot while the other AMO aircrew guided Nogales agents on all-terrain vehicles to a rendezvous point. The two teams then closed in and apprehend all 12 suspects who were illegally present in the U.S.
While processing the suspects and marijuana back at the Nogales Station, agents learned the suspects were all Mexican nationals. Four of the individuals are being charged for criminal immigration violations following previous removals, while the remaining eight are being processed for expedited removal from the U.S.
The two U.S. citizens traveling in the Ford van are awaiting disposition on federal drug smuggling charges.
“Specialized operations units like BORTAC allow the Border Patrol to meet threats head on,” said Patrol Agent in Charge of Special Operations Jiggs Rawls. “Using dynamic deployment methods, like fast-roping, to surprise and overwhelm the criminal element gives our agents the upper hand. Coordination between all sister components ensures our success in keeping America safe.”
Tucson Air Branch Director Mitch Pribble added, “This is a good example of how the concept of integration serves Customs and Border Protection and, more importantly, the larger public as well. I am proud of the job our guys did.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials welcome assistance from the community. Citizens can report suspicious activity to the Border Patrol and remain anonymous by calling 1-877-872-7435 toll free.