Skip to main content

See also:

Mexican official caught smuggling $2.7 billion worth of cocaine into U.S.

How much gets through?
How much gets through?Getty Images

Last week, a federal grand jury charged Jose Moreno Serrano, a Mexican national working at the Mexican Consulate Office in Yuma, Ariz., with drug smuggling. On April 25, 2014, passed through an official border crossing along the U.S./Mexican border in Arizona and flashed his consulate credentials and his SENTRI pass (granted to so-called 'trusted travelers'), on his way to work.

Less than five minutes later, Moreno was stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, under the guise of an "extended border search." A search of Moreno's SUV revealed "several black taped packages …the combined gross weight of the packages is 45.85 kilograms/101.1 pounds," stuffed into two hidden compartments, according to court documents.

As it turns out, Moreno had been under surveillance for several months, and at one point, Department of Homeland Security investigators placed a GPS tracking device on his vehicle, to keep track of the diplomat's movements on both sides of the border.

Under questioning, Moreno admitted that the drug load was the second one he had delivered in just that week, and that "he was being paid $4,000 for the delivery."

Moreno official capacity at the consulate was to work on behalf of Mexican nationals who have been charged with crimes in the U.S. He has reportedly been fired since his arrest.

The Trusted Traveler program was implemented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in 1995, and gives so-called "low risk" travelers from Mexico, a SENTRI pass, which allows them to use special lanes into various ports of entry. The application and fees cost $122.25 per person, according to CBP.

These "SENTRI Dedicated Commuter Lanes" have been built in in El Paso, TX; San Ysidro, CA; Calexico, CA; Nogales, AZ; Hidalgo, TX; Brownsville, TX; Anzalduas, TX; Laredo, TX; and San Luis, Az; Douglas, AZ, and reduce inspection time to about "10 seconds."

It is unknown exactly how many such 'fast passes' have been given out, but since the program has been in existence for 19 years, a safe bet would be at least in the tens of thousands.