Cartels could be using spring break vacationers in Mexico as unsuspecting drug mules, according to a former federal law enforcement agent.
ABC15 found out more about the so-called blind mules. The drug smugglers can pull off the crime with a GPS tracking device, some strong magnets and a car destined for north of the border.
“They make a specialty out of identifying targets,” said Jose Wall, a former federal agent who now consults companies on Central American crime.
Border crime experts say cartels target several different types of people to be blind mules, including people who frequently cross the border for work. People who live in Southern California, Texas or Arizona, who travel for vacations, prescription drug purchases or to visit relatives are also targeted.
Wall demonstrated to ABC15 how the smugglers use magnets or tape to adhere small packages of high-dollar drugs to the undercarriage of SUVs or trucks. He also says jeeps and trucks with rear-mounted tires get targeted.
“They can just come up, slit the tire open, throw the drugs in there, throw the cover back on and let you go on your way,” Wall said.
Wall says the bad guys are hoping the mules slip through border checkpoints undetected, and their partners retrieve the drugs at the travelers’ homes or businesses using the GPS trackers.
If border agents do find the drugs, the unsuspecting driver is arrested. California-based lawyer Russell Babcock says he has defended dozens of blind mules and wrote a book about it.
“You can imagine somebody who has never been in trouble in their life,” Babcock said. “They are going down to visit a relative in Mexico, and all the sudden they have half a million dollars of drugs in the car. And they have these angry agents that don't believe them.”
Wall warns travelers to be vigilant when on vacation. Don’t share personal information like home and business locations. Think about where you park and don’t let anyone borrow your car.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection also recommends that if you travel to Mexico frequently, try to avoid routines. If you leave your car unattended for any amount of time while in Mexico, be sure to check your vehicle.
CBP recommends specifically checking the trunk area, underneath the car and any area easily accessible to ensure there's nothing that shouldn’t be there before crossing the border.