Two teenagers in California are facing up to 20 years jail time for what is the first U.S. drug seizure involving a drone along the U.S.- Mexico border. As authorities become aware of existing methods deployed by drug cartels to ferry illegal contraband, creativity and technology are paving the way for a new mode of drug transportation: Drone trafficking.
Brayan Valle, 19, and Jonathan Elias, 18, are both being charged with possession with intent to distribute 28 pounds of heroin. The drugs were ferried across the U.S. – Mexico border on top of a drone. The two admitted before a Californian court on Tuesday that they drove to an open field in Calexico, California from where they picked up the bag laced with the heroin that had been flown in.
Elias reported that he took over the operating of the drone once it had flown in from Mexico. Valle admitted to placing the drugs in the trunk of their car. The two are set to be sentenced on October 20th for possession with intent to distribute.
Authorities now say this is the first case involving the transportation of drugs across the notorious U.S. – Mexico border. However, it is not the first reported case of drugs being ferried through the flying devices. In January, Mexican officials seized a drone packed with methamphetamine that had crashed into a supermarket in Tijuana, close to the U.S. border.
Earlier this month, prison warders at an Ohio facility had a tough time controlling a yard fight that had been spurred by a drone ferrying marijuana, heroin and tobacco into the facility.
Laura Duffy, U.S. attorney in California said, "With border security tight, drug traffickers have thought of every conceivable method to move their drugs over, under and through the border. We have found their tunnels, their Cessnas, their jet skis, their pangas, and now we have found their drones."
U.S. authorities have admitted knowledge of the emerging threat posed by drones in the ferrying of drugs. Drones are fast becoming popular and easily accessible to a majority of the public. The drones can fly for distances of up to five miles and can stay in the air for over an hour, making them a potential drug transportation vehicle.
In Mexico, the media has reported that drug cartels are now ordering customized drones that fly longer and carry heavier loads. While the seizure by American Border Patrol is the first of its kind, it remains to be seen just how long before more drones are seized carrying illicit drugs into the U.S.