SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – Drug smugglers are preying on unsuspecting drivers by sticking drugs under their cars with magnets, turning innocent border crossers into drug runners.
Tijuana police demonstrated how it works and say it's the newest trend in drug smuggling. They say strong magnets are taped onto bricks of drugs and placed underneath drivers' cars. Those drivers are then used as blind mules to transport the drugs from Mexico into the United States.
A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego says it is aware of the growing problem. ICE spokesperson Lauren Mack tells News 8, "We are currently investigating a number of incidents where apprehensions were made involving small boxes of drugs that were smuggled in using magnets to hold them underneath vehicles, in primarily the SENTRI lanes. Mack says, "The bottom line is you are responsible to know what's in your car, so be aware there are these kinds of schemes and be careful what you're bringing back."
The targets are people like News 8 Associate Producer Sammy Castanon's mom, who has a SENTRI pass which grants authorized drivers rapid border crossing. Castanon says, "Drugs found in your car, you have no idea where they came from how do you explain that? Even if you are innocent, you know, what are they going to think?"
The smugglers are apparently monitoring SENTRI drivers to choose the perfect target, then have someone else on this side of the border follow the driver if they make it through the port of entry, so the drugs can be quickly retrieved.
Castanon says it's scary knowing there are people that could be looking at you, especially if his mom goes down there alone.
ICE says it is currently working to identify the group responsible for this latest scheme, with the goal of dismantling the organization.
Another scheme drug smugglers are using, involves hiring people in Mexico for bogus housekeeping and security guard jobs through classified ads in Mexican newspapers. The smugglers then give these unsuspecting workers vehicles, to drive into the United States. Last month, ICE began putting its own advertisements in Mexican newspapers to warn readers about that scam.