U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized approximately 32,000 pounds of marijuana at the Otay Mesa cargo port on Feb 26. This is the largest narcotics seizure to have ever taken place at the port and the second largest ever at any U.S. border crossing.
CBP Director of Field Operations Pete Flores told the UCSD Guardian that this seizure is significant because it enables the CBP to achieve a number of goals.
“This drug seizure at our port not only keeps these drugs out of our communities, thereby helping make them safer,” Flores said. “But it also denies the transnational criminal organizations the profits they were hoping to derive from their eventual sale.”
The seizure took place at approximately 6 p.m. on Thursday when a driver crossing the border claimed to be transporting a cargo shipment of mattresses and cushions.
After conducting an x-ray examination on the truck, CBP officers identified an “anomaly” and decided to further examine the vehicle.
When the officers opened the trailer doors, they discovered that it was full of plastic-wrapped packages stacked to the ceiling with a few mattresses stacked against the walls.
They found a total of 1,296 packages that carried a total of approximately 31,598 pounds, which the CBP estimated has a street value of close to $18.96 million.
The driver was a 46-year-old male Mexican citizen who owned a valid border-crossing card.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that, according to a federal charging complaint, the driver told authorities he was offered $50,000 to smuggle the marijuana from Tijuana to Burbank. California.
After the incident, CBP officers cancelled his card and turned him over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Flores told the Guardian that he thinks the CBP officers at the border deserve the credit for the seizure.
“Our officers did a great job stopping this massive amount of marijuana at the border,” Flores said. “These extraordinary accomplishments are the direct results of the professional men and women in uniform honorably serving and courageously protecting our communities.”
Otay Mesa Cargo Port Director Rosa Hernandez also expressed her satisfaction with the officers’ performances.
“I am extremely proud of the work my officers do,” Hernandez said in a Feb. 27 press release. “Officers never give up their enforcement posture and demonstrate each and every day that they remain guardians of our nation.”
The largest seizure to take place at the Otay Mesa cargo port of entry before this happened when CBP officers seized 19,999 pounds of marijuana in 2003. In 2013, CBP officers accomplished the largest seizure at any U.S. port of entry at the Calexico East port of entry, a cargo containing 35,265 pounds of marijuana.