GULFPORT, Miss. — An El Paso, Texas man was sentenced on July 27 to serve five years in prison, following an investigation conducted by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Harrison County Sheriff's Department.
Jose Verduzco, 51, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico, was encountered during a traffic stop by a Harrison County Sheriff's Department deputy on Jan. 31, 2011 in Gulfport. During a consensual search of Verduzco's vehicle, deputies discovered five kilograms of cocaine in a false compartment.
The case was investigated as part of the Gulf Coast Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) program of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"Verduzco's sentence and dismantling of the drug smuggling organization with which he was associated underscores how effective the BEST concept has proven to be," said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of ICE HSI in New Orleans. "By leveraging the combined investigative expertise of our domestic and international partners, we are able to fully and effectively address criminal activity that undermines and threatens our communities. This case was initiated due to the vigilance of the Harrison County Sheriff's Office and would not have come to a successful conclusion without their continued collaboration throughout the investigation." Parmer oversees a five-state area which includes Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee.
In response to the dramatic surge in cross-border crime and violence, due to intense competition between Mexican drug cartels and transnational criminal smuggling organizations, ICE has partnered with federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement counterparts to create a series of multi-agency teams (BEST) developed to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations posing significant threats to border security. Currently, there are 21 BESTs with locations around the U.S and in Mexico, including the Gulf Coast BEST, which reports to the HSI special agent in charge in New Orleans.