SENTRI registrant arrested for smuggling drugs at California border
Federal officers at the Otay Mesa, Calif. port of entry have arrested a Mexican national registered to participate in a federal frequent crosser program after discovering nearly 300 pounds of marijuana in the vehicle he was driving.
The 27-year old Tijuana man attempted to cross the border into the United States last week. He entered a lane set aside for the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection program when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers became suspicious when the driver showed signs of nervousness. Officer's at a secondary inspection point searched the truck of the Mexico-registered Volkswagen and discovered 16 packages of what tested as marijuana. The stash weighed in at about 280 pounds and according to CBP, has a street value of more than $800,000.
The driver, who was properly registered to enter the U.S. under the fast-pass SENTRI program, is set to be arraigned for the alleged smuggling attempt. His privileges under the SENTRI program were revoked. The narcotics and vehicle were seized by CBP.
Close to 100,000 travelers from both sides of the border are registered with the SENTRI program in the San Diego/San Ysidro area and another 14,000 are registered in the Calexico/Mexicali area. The program began as a pilot program in Otay Mesa in 1995 and in San Ysidro in 2000. Due to its success, the programs are permanent. SENTRI traffic now accounts for about 16 percent of all passenger vehicle traffic moving at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry.
According to the CBP, SENTRI enrollees have been rigorously background checked and have been determined to be a low risk to the security of the U.S. border. As one approaches the inspection area, photos and information are given to the inspector about the driver, passengers and vehicle from the sticker “transponder” on the vehicle and the information on the SENTRI Portpass card. Secondary inspection is randomly determined by computer or if the inspector senses something suspicious.