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Feds allege man tried to smuggle 1,000 pounds of cocaine through Calexico POE

July 28, 2001

DARREN SIMON,Staff Writer

A year-long investigation has led to the arrest of a man alleged to have attempted to smuggle more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine through the downtown Calexico Port of Entry in May 2000.

The man, Hector Bermudez, was charged Tuesday with intentionally importing a controlled substance into the United States.

The 39-year-old Bermudez, whose city of residence was unavailable from authorities Friday, was arraigned in federal court in San Diego Wednesday. He remains in custody in San Diego.

A source with the U.S. Customs Service said the arrest of Bermudez resulted from a lengthy investigation following an incident on May 29, 2000.

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On that day, a motorist in a 1996 Buick Regal with a California license plate drove up to the downtown Calexico Port of Entry.

According to the federal complaint against Bermudez, the driver of the vehicle told a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization inspector manning a primary checkpoint booth that he was a U.S. citizen and that the car was his.

The driver then raced away from the checkpoint and in trying to get through the port nearly struck another inspector. That inspector told authorities the driver steered at him, and when he tried to move out the way, the driver again turned in his direction.

The complaint states the inspector had to jump out of the way of the Buick to avoid being struck.

The driver of the vehicle was described as a Hispanic male, about 38 years old, 5 feet 9 inches tall with black hair. The driver was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.

Later, a Calexico police officer found a vehicle fitting the description of the Buick abandoned in an alley in the 400 block of Cesar Chavez Boulevard.

A U.S. Customs Service inspector with a canine responded to the scene and the dog alerted the inspector to the presence of narcotics in the car by scratching the rear of the trunk. Inside the car inspectors found 400 wrapped packages containing a total of 1033.60 pounds of cocaine.

The driver of the car was not found at the time.

According to the federal complaint, on March 6 of this year, those investigating the case showed the INS inspector who had talked to the driver of the Buick a photo line-up that included Bermudez. The inspector reportedly identified Bermudez as the assailant.

On May 31, June 1 and earlier this month, Bermudez was interviewed by authorities. According to the complaint, he admitted he was the driver of the Buick and that he was aware the car contained cocaine.

The investigation into the case is continuing.

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

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