PHARR, Texas – Officials at the Texas border thwarted a massive methamphetamine smuggling attempt when they discovered and seized over $18 million of the drug last week.
According to the statement provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations, the incident occurred on February 15 at the Pharr International Bridge when a commercial trailer arriving from Mexico was referred for inspection.
CBP uses non-intrusive imaging equipment and screening by a canine team to identify potential illegal substances. If some anomaly is detected or a canine alerts a vehicle, they are sent to secondary inspection for further investigation.
Officers discovered 1,348.83 pounds of methamphetamine concealed within the trailer upon physical examination.
“This massive methamphetamine smuggling attempt was stopped, thanks to our vigilant officers who continue to work as a team and use all available tools and resources to their full potential,” said Port Director Carlos Rodriguez, Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry.
Both the narcotics and the tractor-trailer were seized, and the case remains under investigation by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI).
In January 2021, Congress passed the Securing America’s Ports Act which required the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a plan to increase the rate of scanning commercial and passenger vehicles entering the U.S. through ports of entry to 100 percent.
It would be very time consuming to scan every truck that comes across the border with high-power energy scanners, but in April 2021, a contract was awarded to Leidos of Reston, Virginia to provide CBP with Multi-Energy Portal (MEP) systems.
The company’s statement says that Leidos will “integrate, deploy, and train CBP staff” under this contract to use these low-energy backscatters and high-energy transmission cargo inspection systems. The systems include a QR code reader, license plate recognition technology, a radio frequency identification system (RFID), situational awareness cameras, and an open-standards interface to the DHS SWIFT system.
According to the Washington Post, CBP has begun installing the Multi-Energy Portals at the Brownsville and Laredo ports of entry in Texas.
Alberto Flores, Director of the CBP Laredo port of entry, said the MEPs are “going to be a game changer for us. He added that each machine can scan eight times as many trucks per hour as the existing high-energy systems they have been using.
Of course, he noted, “The more scans we do, the probability of a seizure will increase.”
Over 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, and while officials say they won’t catch everything, the new systems will significantly increase their detection capabilities.
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