On Aug. 12, two men in California pleaded guilty to smuggling drugs into the United States from Mexico. According to authorities, the pair used drones to try and sneak approximately 30 pounds of heroin over the border between California and Mexico. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, this was the first-ever drug seizure on California's border that involved a drone.
The defendants admitted in federal court that they drove to a field in Calexico to pick up 8.6 pounds of heroin in April. The 18-year-old allegedly assumed control over the drone from an operator in Mexico once it crossed border. In accordance with the plea agreement, the 19-year-old defendant admitted to putting the heroin in the trunk of their vehicle. The two El Centro defendants now face up to 20 years behind bars for possession of heroin with intent to distribute, and their sentence hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20.
The local U.S. attorney described this new seizure as one of the many ways authorities have circumvented perpetrators' attempts to sneak contraband across the border. Authorities claim they first began detecting light aircrafts carrying bundles of marijuana across the border about four years ago. As drones and similar devices become more popular in the consumer market, law enforcement has enhanced its search. An unrelated incident in January involved a drone with over six pounds of methamphetamine crashing into Tijuana supermarket parking lot.
People who have been handed serious drug charges typically benefit from consulting a criminal defense lawyer. Legal counsel may be prepared to investigate the allegations and determine the best strategy to use before or at trial. In some cases, the constitutionality of the search that led to the seizure of the drugs can be challenged.