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June 3, 2021El Paso, TX, United StatesNarcotics

HSI, CBP El Paso: Drug trafficking networks recruiting smugglers on Facebook

EL PASO, Texas — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations (OFO), have identified the increased use of social media platforms such as Facebook, by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), to recruit and facilitate drug smuggling in the El Paso area.

The TCOs advertise various jobs such as money couriers for money service businesses such as Casas De Cambio, or money exchange houses, and unsuspecting job seekers reply with their interest to the advertisement. The solicitor, or “recruiter,” will then send a direct message to the job seeker with more information about the job.

For example, recruitment advertisements HSI special agents have spotted on Facebook may read as follows: “Our company is looking for individuals who are able to cross into El Paso. We work directly with the Casas de Cambio and transport money from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez (Mexico).”

The recruiter will reassure the job seekers that everything is legal. The recruiter will request an “interview” with the job seekers in Ciudad Juarez to explain the job in further detail.

The reality is that members of the TCO will take the job seeker’s vehicle and conceal narcotics within it. The unsuspecting individuals will pick up their vehicles and are instructed to cross through one of the El Paso ports of entry. Once they have crossed into the United States, they are instructed to call the recruiter to pick up the vehicle.

HSI advises job seekers to research the name and address of the company that is recruiting them. Legitimate businesses neither conduct interviews in parking lots nor do they take custody of a potential employee’s vehicle. Job seekers should also obtain the employer’s information and ask for company identification.

“Individuals caught with contraband in their vehicles trying to enter the United States risk being arrested and convicted,” said Erik P. Breitzke, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso. “HSI will continue to work jointly with CBP to intercept and prevent drugs from coming into the country and poisoning our communities. Do not allow yourself to be used as a smuggler.”

CBP reminds the traveling public that when a driver presents themselves at a port of entry, they are responsible for all items found in the vehicle and charged if illegal or prohibited goods are located during the inspection process. Any offer to drive a vehicle on the behalf of another should be met with suspicion.

“CBP encourages the public not to entrust their vehicles and their safety to ‘job recruiters’ they meet online,” said CBP El Paso Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha,” We encourage the public to be aware of job ads from social media that seem too good to be true.”

HSI encourages the public to report any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators, and callers may remain anonymous. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 06/04/2021