Fourth of July Weekend Busy for CBP in Southern California

The Fourth of July weekend was anything but leisurely for U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the ports of entry along the California border with Mexico. CBP officers seized more than 6,500 pounds of marijuana, 116 pounds of cocaine, eight pounds of methamphetamine and nearly seven pounds of heroin. Officers also processed 10 wanted individuals, including one murder suspect sought by Los Angeles authorities who was featured on the America’s Most Wanted website.

Two of the largest drug seizures occurred Monday at the Otay Mesa port cargo facility. One incident occurred around 1:45 p.m., when a tractor-trailer hauling boxes of Mexican squash was stopped and inspected by officers.

During inspection, a CBP officer noticed anomalies in the boxes and summoned a K-9 team to the trailer. The narcotic detector dog alerted to the trailer which subsequently led officers to investigate further.

A bale of marijuana was hidden inside this box of squash being imported from Mexico.

Officers uncovered 560 packages of marijuana hidden within the boxes of produce.

The total weight of the marijuana was over 4,000 pounds and had an estimated value of more than $2 million dollars. CBP seized the tractor-trailer, produce and drugs and turned over the driver, a 35-year-old Mexican male, to agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This box of peppers being imported from Mexico concealed a large bale of marijuana.

Minutes later at around 2 p.m., another truck arrived at the Otay Mesa cargo facility driven by a 37-year-old Mexican male. It, too, underwent a similar inspection and CBP officers discovered more than 122 packages of marijuana hidden within boxes of pepper produce. The total weight of the marijuana was over 1,630 pounds with an estimated value of over $816,000.

Another significant cargo seizure occurred on Saturday when a suspected smuggler attempted to deceive CBP officers at the East Calexico port cargo facility. A 29-year-old Mexican male driving a tractor-trailer presented officers with a manifest of concrete furniture articles.

Officers referred the vehicle to undergo a more intensive inspection by a K-9 team. The narcotic detector dog alerted to the vehicle, leading officers to investigate further. After a closer inspection, CBP officers discovered 50 packages of marijuana concealed within concrete tables and benches. The marijuana weighed more than 376 pounds and had an estimated value of $377,000.

According to Calexico Port Director Billy Whitford, a seizure such as this is the result of highly professional CBP officers combined with the use of technology.

“When CBP officers trust their instincts and back it up with the use of drug detector dog teams, they prevent dangerous narcotics from entering our country and getting into our communities,” said Whitford.

Among the border crossers with outstanding warrants captured over the weekend at the ports of entry by CBP officers was a fugitive wanted by authorities in Los Angeles. On Saturday at about 2:40 p.m., Jesus Catalan, a U.S. citizen, was being deported to the U.S. through the San Ysidro port of entry by Mexican law enforcement personnel. Catalan provided CBP officers with a bogus name but was quickly identified by fingerprints as a fugitive with an active warrant for murder issued in November, 2009, by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Catalan was featured on America’s Most Wanted as a suspect in the brutal murder of a transgender woman in Hollywood, Calif., in August 2009.

Catalan was transported to the San Diego jail to await extradition to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Paul Morris, San Diego CBP director of field operations said, “I am proud of all the professional men and women at our ports of entry who worked diligently during this Fourth of July weekend protecting America by keeping dangerous drugs and criminals from entering our country and contaminating our communities.”

In fiscal year 2009, CBP officers at the ports of entry along the California/Mexico border apprehended 1,925 persons with active warrants for their arrest.

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