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Contraband
09/01/2011

'BEST' members arrest alien who tried to smuggle $130,000 into Mexico

Vehicle selected for inspection during a southbound operation at port of entry

Cash Bundle
Cash Bundle

EL PASO, Texas — A Mexican national remains in federal custody on currency-smuggling charges after he was arrested on Tuesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Luis Carlos Quezada-Rodriguez, 39, attempted to enter Mexico on Aug. 30 through the Ysleta Port of Entry. He was traveling alone in a 1996 Pontiac Bonneville. The vehicle, with Mexico license plates, was stopped during a southbound inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Quezada-Rodriguez stated to the officers that he had nothing to declare, including currency, weapons or ammunition. However, a CBP currency-detector canine searched the vehicle and alerted to the firewall area of the car. CBP officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents continued their exam and located eight tape-wrapped bundles in the firewall area of the vehicle. The packages contained $130,000 in U.S. currency.

ICE HSI special agents assigned to the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) responded to the port of entry and arrested Quezada-Rodriguez. He remains jailed at the El Paso County Jail without bond. His preliminary and detention hearing is scheduled for Sept. 6 in federal court.

"ICE HSI and CBP work together on different levels to prevent shipments of undeclared cash from reaching the hands of criminal organizations," said Manuel Oyola-Torres, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in El Paso.

BEST is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE HSI-led initiative that operates in the United States and Mexico. These task forces are charged with enforcing a wide array of immigration and customs laws, including those related to securing the border. BEST focuses on combating transnational threats, such as criminal gangs and contraband-smuggling organizations that smuggle aliens, drugs, weapons and currency. There are 22 BEST task forces with locations nationwide and in Mexico.

El Paso's BEST members include the following law enforcement agencies: ICE HSI; ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO); CBP's Office of Border Patrol, and Office of Field Operations; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the U.S. Department of State; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Transportation Security Administration; the El Paso County Sheriff's Office; the El Paso Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas.

The El Paso Intelligence Center's Situational Awareness Intelligence Unit assisted with this case.