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Contraband
11/12/2010

3 seizures yield more than 9,000 pounds of pot for ICE in Nogales

NOGALES, Ariz. - Special agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized more than 9,200 pounds of marijuana within one week in Nogales, Ariz.

In two separate incidents Wednesday, HSI agents seized 4,520 pounds of marijuana at a Nogales business under investigation for suspicion of narcotics smuggling and another 2,485 pounds from a load vehicle parked in town.

The business, located in downtown Nogales, was under surveillance by ICE when, at approximately 5 a.m., agents observed a 2001 purple Peterbilt tractor enter the property and park in the rear near a disabled cargo van. After parking next to the van, four individuals were observed unloading large marijuana bundles from the Peterbilt tractor and placing them into the cargo van.

HSI agents surrounded the property and seized a total of 206 bundles of marijuana with a cumulative weight of 4,520 pounds. Agents also arrested a 58-year-old Mexican citizen who is currently facing federal charges related to drug smuggling.

Later that day, agents identified an abandoned van laden with narcotics parked at a bank located on Mariposa Road in Nogales. A search the van revealed 2,485 pounds of marijuana stashed inside.

Finally, on Nov. 4, HSI agents identified a white panel van in a Nogales parking lot that resembled vehicles used to illicitly transport large quantities of marijuana. Agents observed a man enter the vehicle and depart the area. They followed the van to a warehouse area and watched as the van, after departing the warehouses, was followed closely by a Ford Expedition.

The van conducted a counter-surveillance maneuver, followed by the Expedition, which agents recognized as a common technique used by drug smuggling organizations to avoid law enforcement. Agents conducted a traffic stop on the van and the Expedition and discovered 2,213 pounds of marijuana in the van.

"As Homeland Security Investigations continues to identify the organizations, individuals and techniques used to smuggle narcotics, we will expect to see significant seizures and arrests being made by ICE agents," said Kevin Kelly, assistant special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Nogales.