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People crossing into California tricked into trafficking drugs

A lot of news has been dedicated to influence of Mexican cartels in the states along the United States' southern border. While federal authorities are putting a tremendous amount of resources into catching those bringing drugs across the international border into California, other unsuspecting people have been hoodwinked into violating drug trafficking laws on behalf of the cartels.

More than 40 people have been convinced by cartel leaders to cross the California border to complete an "important," but unspecified, errand for those who claim to be businesspeople. As these individuals have attempted to cross the border, federal authorities have found drugs on their vehicles. Border agents noticed this trend beginning last year, but have noted that it is still continuing today.

According to the arrested individuals, they responded to ads to complete what appeared to be legal courier transactions, but they were unaware that their vehicles were loaded with drugs as they crossed the border. Many of the individuals were promised jobs once they arrived in California, but were brushed-off as soon they arrived in the United States. These individuals were obviously desperate for opportunity and quickly became frightened as they were arrested for a crime they had no idea they committed.

In some cases, the cartels had duplicate keys made for the unknowing smugglers' vehicles. They would use the key to open their cars at night to place drugs in them, so the individual was entirely unaware of any misdeeds. When they parked the vehicles in the U.S. the drugs would be unloaded by cartel operatives.

As for now, federal immigration and drug authorities will continue to pursue their efforts to stop these unsuspecting, confused drug mules. It seems unfair to pursue criminal charges, which have very serious legal repercussions, against someone who has no idea they did something illegal.

Being accused of and arrested for such a weighty federal crime is a nerve-wracking prospect all by itself. However, understanding that you were swindled into committing a crime creates a tremendous burden to prove that you had no idea you were committing a crime. This case is a perfect example of why establishing and verifying all the facts involved in a criminal case is of the utmost importance.

Source: Reuters, "Mexican cartels trick border crossers into being drug mules," Marty Graham, April 15, 2012

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