Pubdate: Mon, 02 Jul 2001
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2001 The Dallas Morning News
Author: David McLemore, The Dallas Morning News


Contraband Found During Border Stop

A Mexican commercial bus converted to a luxury rolling entertainment center 
transported more than just the trappings of a successful business trip over 
the weekend, federal agents in Eagle Pass said Monday.

U.S. customs inspectors found nearly 2,700 pounds of marijuana and cocaine 
with a street value of about $18 million in a hidden compartment in the 
bus, said John Salazar, customs port director at Eagle Pass.

The seizure, the most recent large-volume haul of narcotics made at a port 
of entry with Mexico this year, is a sign that a dramatic increase in drug 
trafficking shows no signs of lessening, he said.

By comparison, customs agents at Eagle Pass seized about 6,000 pounds of 
marijuana and 200 pounds of cocaine in all of last year.

"We can't say this increase is due to market forces like increased demand 
or tougher enforcement by Mexican authorities," Mr. Salazar said. "We just 
know we're seeing a lot more drugs coming across."

In the 12 months that ended Sept. 31, customs officers along the border 
seized more than 227,944 pounds of marijuana, a 30 percent increase over 
the previous 12 months.

The latest seizure in Eagle Pass began about 5 a.m. Saturday, when a 1988 
Dina bus registered to a Mexican firm tried to cross the international 
bridge from Piedras Negras, Mexico, with only a driver and relief driver 
aboard. The driver told customs inspectors they were from the industrial 
city of Monclava en route to San Antonio to pick up business customers.

"It was quite a bus," Mr. Salazar said. "It had been converted to sleep 12. 
There was a wet bar and an entertainment center inside, and it's valued at 
about $150,000."

U.S. Customs Service inspectors found what appeared to be discrepancies in 
its upper rear panel, agents learned over the weekend.

During a subsequent scan by a handheld "Buster" density-measuring device, 
agents called for a drug-dog examination. The resulting positive alert by 
the dog led agents to discover 274 bundles in a 6-foot-by-6-foot 
compartment behind the rear wall of the sleeping quarters.

Initially, agents thought they had about 2,700 pounds of marijuana. 
Subsequent testing, however, revealed 393 pounds of cocaine, worth about 
$15.7 million on the street, wrapped in cellophane inside the marijuana. 
The marijuana weighed 2,275 pounds and was valued at $2.2 million, 
according to customs officials.

The two men on the bus, Guadalupe Javier Tenorio-Hernandez, 40, and Martin 
Cervantes-Mocoso, 36, both of Mexico City, were arrested and charged in 
federal court with conspiracy to import narcotics.

"This is the largest marijuana seizure at the Eagle Pass port of entry this 
year since a 700-pound load we found in a Suburban crossing the bridge 
about two months ago," Mr. Salazar said. Before the weekend seizure, agents 
in Eagle Pass had seized about 7,000 pounds of marijuana and 400 pounds of 

The increase in seizures in both volume and frequency shows how much law 
enforcement has done - and how far from finished the job is, said Leonard 
Lindheim, customs special-agent-in-charge in San Antonio.

"These numbers indicate that law enforcement agencies continue to make 
steady progress in the disruption of drug-trafficking organizations," he 
said. "However we recognize that much work remains to be done."

Customs isn't the only federal agency along the border seizing ever-growing 
amounts of drugs.

On June 14, Border Patrol agents in the McAllen Sector seized 5,113 pounds 
of marijuana and 75 pounds of cocaine during a routine stop at the 
checkpoint near Sarita in Kenedy County. Agents were questioning the driver 
of a tanker truck when their drug dog indicated there was contraband in the 
truck. The narcotics, packed in bundles, were found in at the front and 
rear of the tank.

Two weeks earlier, Border Patrol agents patrolling the Rio Grande in 
Hidalgo County noticed a pickup driving on the U.S. side with a sheet of 
plywood covering bundles in the bed of the truck. As the agents attempted 
to stop the truck, the driver turned toward the Rio Grande and drove into 
the river. The driver and a passenger then swam to the Mexican side.

After pulling the truck out of the river, agents found 1,318 pounds of 

In March, Border Patrol agents arrested a Nuevo Laredo man during a 
1,100-pound marijuana bust at a warehouse in Laredo. The drugs had been 
trucked across the Rio Grande and stashed in the warehouse.

One of the biggest hauls this year, however, came Jan. 29 in El Paso, when 
customs inspectors at the Ysleta cargo facility seized 4,956 pounds of 
marijuana hidden in a commercial truck, according to customs data. It was 
the third time in less than a week that customs inspectors uncovered large 
dope loads - 5,272 pounds in Nogales, Ariz., and 2,939 pounds in Laredo.
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