What's inside a "Free and Secure Trade" truck? 9 tons of pot

(Monday, November 19, 2007)

Calexico, Calif. -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Calexico, Calif. east commercial facility detained a Mexican truck driver after they discovered 8.85 tons of marijuana commingled with a shipment of television screens at the port Friday afternoon, Port Director Billy Whitford said today.

The 25-year-old driver, a resident of Mexicali, was registered in the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program and was driving a 1992 GMC tractor-trailer with a shipment manifested as flat screen televisions.

As the truck waited in line to enter the U.S. through the FAST lane at about 4:20 p.m., CBP canine officers conducted a pre-primary operation when a narcotic detector dog alerted to the shipment.

Inspection of the truck through a non-intrusive gamma-ray system later revealed images with anomalies within the shipment. Upon opening the doors, several large packages fell out of the trailer.

Regarded as the largest marijuana load ever for the Calexico port of entry, officers discovered 1,019 large packages of marijuana for a total of 17,701.07 pounds, valued at about $67,264,000.

The tractor-trailer and marijuana were seized by CBP and the driver was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and booked into Imperial County jail to await arraignment. ICE investigation is continuing.

FAST is a Border Accord Initiative between the United States, Mexico and Canada designed to ensure security and safety of trans-border commercial shipments, while enhancing economic prosperity of both countries.

Eligibility for the FAST program requires participants (carrier, drivers, importers, and southern border manufacturers) to submit an application, agreement and security profile. The FAST program allows known low risk commercial shipments to receive expedited border processing at cargo ports of entry.

"This significant seizure demonstrates our commitment to keeping America safe, not only from terrorists and their weapons, but safe from narcotics and the damage they create," Whitford said.