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Customs inspectors seize over 220 pounds of coke at Calexico East POE, 4 persons arrested

July 22, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — U.S. Customs Service inspectors seized more than 220 pounds of cocaine and arrested four people over a two-day period at the Calexico East Port of Entry, it was reported Saturday.

A Customs official pointed to the seizures as a sign of increased cocaine trafficking activity through the Calexico area in the last year.

The first seizures occurred Wednesday.

Vince Bond, a Customs spokesman, said a Customs inspector sent a car into the secondary inspection area at the east port at 9 a.m.

A narcotic-sniffing dog alerted inspectors to the rear of the car, where inspectors found a compartment hidden behind the back rest.

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Inside, they found 24 wrapped packages of cocaine, totaling 59.4 pounds.

The driver of the car, Ricardo Camacho Cordero, 29, of Mexicali, was taken into custody and booked into the county jail on suspicion of drug smuggling.

The second incident occurred about noon Wednesday. A Customs inspector directed a sport-utility vehicle into the second inspection area.

In that case, inspectors used a device called the vehicle and cargo inspection system to view the inside of the gas tank after a narcotic-sniffing dog alerted inspectors to that section of the vehicle.

Inspectors cut the gas tank open and found 29 wrapped packages of cocaine totaling 70.7 pounds.

Two men in the vehicle, driver Victor Sotelo Medina, 31, and Roman Jaquez Zavala, also 31, were taken into custody and booked into the county jail. The men, both from Mexicali, were booked into the county jail on suspicion of drug smuggling.

In the third incident, inspectors directed a car into the secondary inspection area at 9 a.m. Thursday. A narcotic-sniffing dog alerted inspectors to the rear of the vehicle.

Inspectors found 35 wrapped packages of cocaine totaling some 94 pounds in the bumper, rear arm rest and quarter panels.

The driver, Concepcion Morales Espinoza, 19, of Chula Vista, was taken into custody and booked into county jail, also on suspicion of drug smuggling.

All four people remained in custody at the county jail Saturday without bail.

Bond credited the work of inspectors at the primary checkpoints, stating they are the front line of defense in detecting whether an individual is attempting to bring drugs across the border.

Bond said the seizures on Wednesday and Thursday are an indication of increased cocaine activity through the Calexico east port and the downtown Calexico Port of Entry in the last year.

In May, Customs officials seized 800 pounds of cocaine in one case and arrested a Calexico police officer in connection with the seizure.

The officer, Jose Perry, and another man, Jose Barak, allegedly tried to evade detection by racing through the downtown port.

However, Customs inspectors managed to puncture tires on the car they were in, and the vehicle crashed not from the port.

Barak was arrested at the scene when authorities found the cocaine in the car. Perry turned himself over to authorities later. Both men are in San Diego facing drug importation charges.

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

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