McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A woman crossing into the United States from Mexico via the Trusted Traveler SENTRI lane was found with nearly seven pounds of cocaine, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday.
The 20-year-old woman was arrested Nov. 4 at the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge, which connects to Reynosa, Mexico. She was driving a car in the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection Trusted Traveler Program (SENTRI) rapid passage lane, CBP said.
“The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection Trusted Traveler Program is designed to allow vetted persons to make entry through our ports of entry quicker as they have been deemed low-risk. They are still subject for inspection and our diligent officers are always on the lookout for narcotics and other prohibited items,” Port Director Carlos Rodriguez said.
According to documents filed in McAllen federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Jillian Alondra Ruiz, who is a U.S. citizen, was detained and arrested at the bridge’s secondary inspection lane where CBP officers “discovered a black-taped bundle inside Ruiz’s purse.”
A canine unit notified officers to search further, at which point “Ruiz admitted to CBPOs that she had additional bundles strapped on her body,” according to court documents citing the Homeland Security Investigations special agent who handled the case.
An inspection found three black-taped bundles of cocaine in the car; one in her purse and two strapped to her body, according to court documents.
Altogether 6.87 pounds of cocaine were retrieved with a value of $91,000, CBP says.
“Our ability to filter out smugglers from legitimate travelers is paramount in securing our border,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
According to court documents, Ruiz told HSI investigators that she was smuggling narcotics and was going to be paid $350 per package to deliver the drugs in the United States.
She is charged in a criminal complaint with illegal importation of a controlled substance.
If convicted, she faces five to 40 years in prison, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.