Drug Cartels Recruit Smugglers Through Classified Ads, Feds Say

It's not unusual for California police or federal drug enforcement agents to catch drug smugglers at the border, with cannabis or heroin hidden, say, in the tires. But early last year, officials in San Diego say they noticed something surprising. A lot of the smugglers they arrested didn't have any idea that there were drugs in the car.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigated, according to The Associated Press, and found that drug cartels had been placing ads in the classified sections of local newspapers, advertising jobs at a cleaning company or security guard agency. The work involved driving across the border, parking the car at a specific location, walking away, and not asking questions. For the day's work, the "company" would pay $50 or $100.

Officials now believe, though, the company was a drug cartel, and the ads were a strategy of recruiting smugglers.

So the ICE developed a novel plan, reports the AP: The agency put ads in the classified sections of Mexican newspapers, too, warning their readers that taking these jobs could make them unwitting pawns in a very illegal and very dangerous drug trafficking operation.

"It's the cat and mouse game of smuggling along the border," explains Lauren Mack, an ICE spokeswoman. "The smugglers are constantly trying to outwit us. Where they go, we're one step behind them. Where we go, they're one step behind us."

This week, the ICE bought ads in two Tijuana newspapers to run for 30 days. For just $1,800, the ICE thought that they could stop the cartels from expanding their pool of smugglers, and perhaps some people would even call with information.

"Tips are everything to us," says Mack.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about smuggler recruitment is that those smugglers have to be able to cross the border and enter the U.S. That often means they're American citizens, U.S. residents, or Mexicans with a valid visa.

"We've seen just about every scenario," says Mack. "U.S. citizens that live on boats in Mexico, down on their luck. Homeless people recruited from soup lines."

Of course, some of these recruited smugglers aren't totally clueless. Mack says that many of them are desperate, and so simply choose not to ask questions. They don't want to know. Several of the smugglers recently arrested in San Diego later confessed that they had suspicions.

But for those who may be truly duped into this scam, Mack has some advice about how to tell when a job is a real, safe, legal job, and when it's smuggling narcotics.

"Meet your employer in a place of legitimate business, like an office setting," says Mack. Often, these unwitting smugglers would meet their new employers in a park, a McDonald's, a Walmart or someone's home. If the company doesn't have an address, she says, it's a warning sign.

Also important, Mack notes: "Did you fill in an application?"

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I absolutely despise Huffinton Post connect to AOL

April 16 2012 at 1:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh Yeah, rip them off and their whole faimly gets excuted funny you are still alive!!!

April 16 2012 at 1:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if they ever get ripped off ? The driver steals the vehcle and the loot .

April 16 2012 at 1:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So, now they can get an "Office" for $100 bucks a month,
make them fill out an "Application",
same thing/ same thing/ same thing.
They could legalize drugs, take the profit away and stop the whole thing.
Meanwhile, all of the enforcement people are getting tanked up on Whiskey
and so messed up they crawl around the house.
same thing / same thing / same thing.

The ONLY reason any business closes, is when there is no profit.
Even if a business owner cant be at a business and hires a manager,
if the business does not make a profit, it closes.
If a business moves to another area, the ONLY reason is: "Not enough profit".
. . . for whatever reason the end answer is: "No profit= no business."
Even if a business owner dies and the family does not want to keep the bussiness,
because it does: not make a profit, even when distantly owned, with it's own manager,
it is because there is: "Not enough profit or no profit".
Same answer each time.

You soccer moms are causing this and making it difficult for lawmakers to sit down and
even discuss the idea of legalization.
So, the lawmakers are pandering to these frantic soccer moms, hoping to get their vote
on the next election. That's a shame.
And so it goes, cat and mouse, cat and mouse, forever and ever and when one organization goes down, another one pops up.
Oh, maybe its the PROFIT thing again.
Anyone in any major town can find drugs in 30 minutes.
So how does this even effect anything?
So how does all of this "War on Drugs" really help?
It keeps law enforcement employeed and gives them jobs to do.
What a waste of tax dollars.
Might as well have a "War on ants."
If you soccer moms dont want your kids to take or use drugs, tell them so
and threaten them with repeated paddles.
Those kids CAN, if they wanted to, find drugs at any school within 30 minutes.
Illegal or not. And those kids know where your liquor is hidden in the house.
Kids and adults should not take illegal drugs.

April 16 2012 at 11:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Annette Hammond

They just need to keep their CRAP in mexico!!!

April 16 2012 at 10:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It ain't MY yob!

April 16 2012 at 9:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Que pasa amigo? Usted wanna smuggle some weed?

April 16 2012 at 9:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to kvh32055's comment
Annette Hammond

Not if it's from mx. i don't!

April 16 2012 at 10:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nora noah clark

hell yeah !!

May 15 2012 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Those drug cartels are the best business people on the planet..... $50 or a $100 to run a load of drugs over the border ?....It used to pay $3500 back in the 80's....Even the Drug cartels are pinching on labor costs in these harsh economic times... ha ha

April 16 2012 at 12:51 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

What, no resume or references?

April 16 2012 at 12:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

But nappy and others in the administration claim that they are only sneaking across the border for jobs?

April 15 2012 at 10:30 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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