El Paso – Press Release: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conducting southbound operations in cooperation with the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) at the El Paso port of entry Friday night stopped a 33-year-old man from leaving the country with $802,720. The large money bust was one of three southbound currency seizure CBP officers made in two days at the El Paso port of entry.
The largest of the three seizures was made at about 2:30 p.m. Friday while CBP officers, U.S. Border Patrol agents, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents were conducting southbound operations at the Bridge of the Americas (BOTA). CBP officers selected a 1998 Ford Expedition for an intensive exam. The driver of the vehicle said he had nothing to declare during routine questioning by the CBP officer.
CBP officers initiated an intensive exam and noted discrepancies on the floor of the vehicle and found 26 bundles of U.S. currency hidden inside a non-factory compartment in the floor cargo area of the vehicle. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents spent several hours counting 32,031 individual bills which added up to $802,720.
The driver, 33-year-old Luis Rodriguez Vasquez and his passenger, 34-year-old Luis Borrego Meraz were turned over to ICE special agents after federal prosecution was accepted. Both are Mexican citizens who reside in Ciudad Juarez. The pair remains in the El Paso County jail without bond. The vehicle was seized by CBP officers.
"The combined efforts of our CBP officers working together with ICE and Border Patrol agents in the outbound area creates a force multiplier effect that results in significant seizures," said William "Bill" Molaski, CBP Port Director, El Paso. "Every single dollar we stop from being smuggled out of the country makes it harder for criminal organizations to further their illegal activity."
In addition to the seizure of more than $800,000, CBP officers made two additional outbound currency seizures late last week totaling $206,160.
On Thursday, CBP officers seized $179,590 while working southbound operations at the Ysleta bridge. The currency was found in the spare tire of a 2007 Ford Expedition. The driver, 36-year-old Salvador Tostado a resident alien from Detroit, Michigan was turned over to ICE.
On Friday, CBP officers seized $26,570 at the southbound lanes of BOTA. The currency was found in the air filter of the engine compartment of a 2006 Chrysler PT cruiser. The driver, 30-year-old Jorge Hinojos a Mexican citizen who resides in Juarez was turned over to ICE. Both men are currently in the El Paso County jail without bond.
Individuals are permitted to carry any amount of currency or monetary instruments into or out of the U.S. However, if the quantity is $10,000 or higher, they must formally report the currency to CBP. Failure to declare may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest. An individual may petition for the return of currency seized by CBP officers, but the petitioner must prove that the source and intended use of the currency was legitimate.
While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.