Smugglers Run, or Walk, Using U.S. Teens

U.S. teens among those strapping drugs to their stomachs and walking into the country from Mexico

Drugs are simply walking into the country at the San Ysidro border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego according to a new trend that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers call “disturbing.”

While drug-sniffing canines and X-ray technology has focused on vehicles transporting illegal drugs into the country, smugglers have instead hired young men and boys to simply carry the drugs across in the same manner college students used to tape baggies of alcohol to their stomachs to get into football games.

Officers at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa passenger ports apprehended 157 pedestrians, some of them teenagers, carrying a total of 285 pounds of marijuana, 1.2 pounds of heroin, 4.7 pounds of cocaine and over nine pounds of methamphetamines concealed under their clothing between August 2008 and February 2009, according to a release issued Tuesday.

Of those arrested, 87 percent were walking into the U.S. at the San Ysidro border crossing.

These suspects aren’t all Mexican nationals. Most of them were young U.S. citizens including three 14-year old Americans caught trying to smuggle in more than 11 pounds of pot March 2.

Although strapping narcotics to a traveler’s torso is not a new smuggling technique, arrests since last August have burgeoned 811 percent at San Ysidro and 316 percent at Otay Mesa compared to the same period the previous year when officers discovered a total of 23 pedestrians entering local ports with concealed narcotics, officers said.

Most of the offenders faced narcotics smuggling charges in federal or state courts and a few were penalized with fines up to $5,000, officers said.

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