U.S. citizen arrested after cocaine seizure at inspection lane for ‘low risk’ border commuters

Border Report

Canine officer alerted CBP to drugs hidden in engine compartment of van trying to cross El Paso-area port of entry

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Even low-risk commuters are subject to search at the U.S.-Mexico border, and a recent cocaine seizure at an El Paso port of entry shows why.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Ysleta port of entry Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) lane seized 27.4 pounds of cocaine from a van on Jan. 6. The driver, a 28-year-old male U.S. citizen, was arrested in connection to the seizure.

The seizure came just after 8 p.m. when a 2016 Toyota Sienna entered the port from Juarez, Mexico. A CBP officer at the primary inspection booth selected the vehicle for a secondary inspection after a drug-sniffing dog alerted to the presence of narcotics.

CBP officers then conducted a non-intrusive Z-Portal X-ray scan and physical inspection of the vehicle. Multiple bundles were found hidden within the engine compartment of the van.

“Use of the SENTRI lane is a privilege. Nevertheless sometimes we encounter an individual who attempts to circumvent the process,” said CBP Ysleta Port Director Arnie Gomez. “This is why we trust but verify that users are not violating the confidence that has been bestowed upon them.”

CBP officers show the engine compartment of a vehicle allegedly trying to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. at the Ysleta, Texas, port of entry. (CBP photo)

The driver was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations to face charges in connection with the failed smuggling attempt.

SENTRI is a program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Participants may enter the United States by using dedicated lanes — often referred to as “Express lanes” — into the United States at Southern land border ports. Travelers must be pre-approved for the SENTRI program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment, CBP said.

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