YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollectionsCocaine

Calexico officer linked to cocaine smuggling

May 26, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

U.S. Customs officials have confirmed a Calexico police officer was arrested for his alleged involvement in attempting to smuggle about 800 pounds of cocaine through the downtown Calexico Port of Entry.

Officer Jose Angel Perry was arrested at 10:30 p.m. Thursday when he turned himself in to Calexico police officers.

He was handed over to U.S. Customs officials and was booked into the county jail at 2:30 a.m. Friday on suspicion of unlawful importation of a narcotic.

Customs officials and the Calexico Police Department had a joint press conference Friday at City Hall to discuss the issue.

Few new details were released, but officials did say Perry was thought to be the passenger in a car that raced through the port about 3 p.m. Thursday only to crash about five blocks away.

The driver, Jose Alberto Barak, 42, of Thousand Palms, was arrested at the scene on allegations he attempted to smuggle cocaine into the United States.


Customs officials said both he and Perry were expected to be moved Friday from the county jail to San Diego to be placed into federal custody.

During the press conference, Customs officials said around 3 p.m. Thursday inspectors at the downtown port were involved in what they call a "block blitz" in which they randomly select a group of vehicles to be checked in the secondary inspection area.

They said Barak's vehicle was to be part of that group, but instead he attempted to race through the port into the city.

Customs inspectors laid out a device that punctures tires before Barak cleared the port. Two of the tires on the car were punctured.

Calexico police Cmdr. Mario Sanchez said the car crashed five blocks from the port on Cesar Chavez Boulevard. It was unclear what the car hit, but Sanchez said the accident was not serious.

A total of 351 packages of cocaine, adding up to 800 pounds, was found in the car.

A passenger in the vehicle, later identified as Perry, fled after the accident. Barak was taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents who responded to the scene along with Calexico police and Customs inspectors.

After the press conference, Sanchez said a Border Patrol agent saw Perry in the area and recognized him. However, the agent thought Perry was there as part of the investigation.

Perry managed to cross the border into Mexicali.

Customs called in the FBI, the county Narcotic Task Force, the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and the county Sheriff's Office to assist with the investigation.

Calexico police managed to get in contact with Perry via a cell phone.

Sanchez said an officer with the department talked Perry into crossing the border back into Calexico to turn himself in, which he did at 10:30 p.m. Sanchez declined to name the officer who talked with Perry.

Walter W. Collette Jr., associate special agent in charge for U.S. Customs in San Diego, alleged Perry was identified by Barak as the passenger in the car.

Collette said the probe is just beginning and there is little information on the relationship between Perry and Barak.

Sanchez said the two were thought to be friends, but there was no information on whether the case was isolated or whether Perry and Barak are thought to have smuggled drugs in the past.

After the press conference, Collette said because it's early in the investigation he cannot say whether investigators think a drug organization hired Perry and Barak to bring the drugs across the border.

Still, he said seizing 800 pounds of cocaine likely will hurt some drug organization, at least temporarily.

"At least we disrupted the flow a little bit," he said.

When asked if he was surprised to hear allegations a Calexico police officer was involved in drug smuggling, Sanchez first said he was surprised.

"You never see a pattern," Sanchez said. "You see he comes to work and does his job."

Then Sanchez added, "I guess in law enforcement nothing is surprising."

Perry has worked for the Calexico Police Department for six years. Sanchez said Perry was thought of as a good officer.

Sanchez added Calexico police will be conducting their own investigation separate from the U.S. Customs probe.

Neighbors of Perry in Calexico told a reporter Friday they were shocked by allegations he was involved in drug smuggling.

"I can't believe it," said one woman whose brother used to play and chat with Perry.

"He was a nice person," the woman said.

Another neighbor said the officer is a good neighbor. The man said when Perry arrives home he said "hello" and was helpful to neighbors.

Staff Writer Arturo Bojórquez contributed information to this story.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles