El Paso, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at El Paso area ports of entry seized 1,306 pounds of marijuana and 7.7 pounds of cocaine in 14 drug seizures this week. The largest seizure of the week occurred Tuesday night when CBP officers stopped a 549-pound drug load in El Paso. A New Mexico man was arrested in connection with the failed smuggling attempt.
“This is a significant seizure and a substantial loss for the smuggler,” said Hector Mancha, CBP El Paso Port Director. “Rarely do we see 500-pound loads of marijuana in passenger vehicles. The hard work of CBP officers stopped this smuggler and 13 others in their tracks this week.”
The large seizure was made just before 10 p.m. Tuesday night at the Paso Del Norte international crossing in downtown El Paso when a 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche entered the facility from Mexico. A CBP officer at the primary inspection booth noted several issues when interviewing the driver so the officer selected the vehicle for a secondary exam. CBP officers working in the secondary area continued the exam. A CBP drug-sniffing dog searched the vehicle and responded to the presence of drugs. CBP officers located hidden compartments in the quarter panels, floor and bed of the vehicle. CBP officers removed 287 bundles from the truck.
CBP officers took custody of the driver, 35-year-old Nicolas Villa Castaneda of Mesilla Park, N.M. He was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI special agents to face federal charges in connection with the failed smuggling attempt. He is currently detained at the El Paso County jail and being held without bond.
While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission routinely results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.