64°F
weather icon Clear

Man uses drone to smuggle meth from Mexico to California

SAN DIEGO — A 25-year-old U.S. citizen has been charged with using a drone to smuggle more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine from Mexico by drone, an unusually large seizure for what is still a novel technique to bring illegal drugs into the United States, authorities said Friday.

Jorge Edwin Rivera told authorities that he used drones to smuggle drugs five or six times since March, typically delivering them to an accomplice at a nearby gas station in San Diego, according to a statement of probable cause. He said he was to be paid $1,000 for the attempt that ended in his arrest.

Border Patrol agents in San Diego allegedly saw the drone in flight on Aug. 8 and tracked it to Rivera about 2,000 yards from the Mexico border. Authorities say agents found Rivera with the methamphetamine in a lunch box and a 2-foot drone hidden in a nearby bush.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a recent annual report that drones are not often used to smuggle drugs from Mexico because they can only carry small loads, though it said they may become more common. In 2015, two people pleaded guilty to dropping 28 pounds of heroin from a drone in the border town of Calexico, California. That same year, Border Patrol agents in San Luis, Arizona, spotted a drone dropping bundles with 30 pounds of marijuana.

Alana Robinson, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, said drones haven’t appealed to smugglers because their noise attracts attention and battery life is short. Also, payloads pale compared to other transportation methods, like hidden vehicle compartments, boats or tunnels.

As technology addresses those shortcomings, Robinson expects drones to become more attractive to smugglers. The biggest advantage for them is that the drone operator can stay far from where the drugs are dropped, making it less likely to get caught.

“The Border Patrol is very aware of the potential and are always listening and looking for drones,” Robinson said.

Benjamin Davis, Rivera’s attorney, declined to comment. Rivera is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 7.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
NY races to add beds, but staff and supplies harder to find

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke, over 13,300 coronavirus patients were hospitalized and more than 3,300 needed intensive care around the state, though mostly in New York City.

 
Trump officials working on recommendation about wearing masks

The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many, if not almost all, Americans wear face coverings when leaving home.

Infections, deaths surge at US nursing homes amid lockdowns

Nursing homes have been in lockdown for weeks under orders to protect their residents from coronavirus, but a wave of deadly outbreaks since suggests that the measures including a ban either came too late or were not rigorous enough.

COVID-19 toll: Millions jobless, tens of thousands dead

The Federal Emergency Management Agency asked the Pentagon for 100,000 body bags because of the possibility funeral homes will be overwhelmed, the military said.

Man derails train near hospital ship, officials say

The suspect said he was suspicious of the Mercy and believed it had an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover.