In the era of Craigslist and Monster.com, it might seem a little antiquated to search the classified section of a newspaper for a job. Hell, it’s a little antiquated to read a newspaper, period. But, still, people take out ads in newspapers for all sorts of jobs, from housecleaners to models, and in Mexico, this section has become a source for drug cartels to find smugglers to unwittingly transport marijuana, along with serious drugs, across the border and into the United States.
The scheme is this: the cartels advertise normal jobs, like security guards or cashiers, and tell their new hires that they must drive company cars into the United States. What they aren’t told is that the cars contain weed, coke, or meth hidden in the vehicle, waiting to be secretly unloaded when the driver reaches their destination.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement is now seeking to beat the cartels at their own game, by essentially doing a similar thing. In a hope to prevent unsuspecting job seekers from getting in trouble with the law, ads are being taken out in the Mexican classifieds that will warn people to be wary if asked to drive a car into the U.S.
This action comes in response to a significant rise in arrests made at San Diego’s two border crossings that stem from what the driver’s thought were legitimate jobs. In fact, 39 arrests have been made since February of 2011 and those arrests have yielded 3,400 pounds of marijuana, 75 pounds of cocaine, and 100 pounds of methamphetamine.
From the cartel’s point of view, the tactic is a smart one. For one, the driver will appear less nervous when crossing the border because they don’t even know that they are doing anything wrong. Plus, it cuts down on costs because the drivers often believe that they are going to a job and when they arrive, they are informed that there is no work for them on that day and that they must walk back to Mexico. Pretty harsh! In all, drivers are usually paid between $50 and $200 for a trip, rather than the $1,500-$5,000 that it might cost to hire a seasoned smuggler.
Also, this tactic serves to highlight just how desperate people are getting for work in the present economy, in that they are willing to work without investigating to see if their new employer is indeed legitimate.
As for whether people tricked into smuggling drugs would face actual jail time, each case appears to be different, with knowledge that they are committing the crime needed to prove any culpability on the part of the defendant. A San Diego defense attorney told the Associated Press that the classifieds taken out by the U.S. may end up helping the defendants, as it is an admission that people are being tricked into taking drugs across the border.
Do you feel bad for people tricked into being drug smugglers? Will these classified ads taken out by the U.S. help end this problem?