Jan 22, 2013 7:20 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Largest pot bust in state's history made at Nogales border crossing

NOGALES, Ariz. - Federal authorities say they have made one of the largest marijuana busts ever along the U.S.-Mexico Border at the Mariposa Port of Entry.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say a man tried to drive a commercial truck across the Nogales border crossing on January 15.

More than 14,000 pounds of marijuana were found, disguised in boxes to look like metal appliances or electronics, after several "red flags" prompted authorities to stop and inspect the truck.

The estimated street value for the seized drugs runs between $7-12 million dollars making it the largest marijuana seizure Arizona's border with Mexico has ever seen.

"The officers identified some red flags in information, both in the electronic information sent in advance and in the documented information provided by the driver," said Nogales Port Director Guadalupe Ramirez.

CBP agents detained the truck and drugs but refused to comment on any possible arrests.

"In these types of investigations, we really can't disclose the fact that we've made this type of seizure until we've given [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] the opportunity to further their investigation to the point where they feel okay," Ramirez said.

That kind of protocol is something Terry Kirkpatrick, a retired ICE special agent, is familiar with.

"I would think it was pretty brazen to try to bring seven tons over at a time," Kirkpatrick told News 4 Tucson.

To have that kind of confidence in smuggling a load of that scope and size across the border, has Kirkpatrick convinced there could have been something more at work.

"That would lead me to think that possibly there might even be some inside connections where they thought they could get it through the port of entry," Kirkpatrick said.

However, as commercial travel ramps up for the produce season, port agents insist that they're prepared for future attempts at smuggling.

"We're going to continue to use the same strategy that we used on this one, and hopefully have a really good season this year," Ramirez said.

As soon as CBP gets approval from the Attorney General's Office and Homeland Security, the roughly seven tons of illegal marijuana will be burned.


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