CONROE, Texas (AP) - A routine traffic stop in the
small town of Montgomery has led to the discovery of a
baby formula fraud operation that may be helping fund
terrorist activity, police officials investigating the
case said Thursday.
Montgomery police Lt. Michael White said the FBI,
U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Department of
Agriculture are involved in the investigation, which
may span several states.
The investigation began early Saturday after police
stopped four people in a rented van, clocked at 91 mph
in downtown Montgomery. Two of the occupants had
outstanding warrants for marijuana possession and
speeding, police said.
Officers found the van fully stocked with hundreds
of cans of Enfamil. The infant formula usually sells
for around $10 per can, but officers found receipts in
the van showing each can was purchased for less than a
A further investigation, aided by U.S. Customs
agents, led authorities to believe the suspects
altered bar codes on the cans to buy them cheaply at
stores such as Wal-Mart and Brookshire Brothers, then
resold them elsewhere to turn a profit that may have
been used to fund terrorist operations abroad, police
Police told the Conroe Courier for its Thursday
editions that terrorists obtain U.S. currency from
certain store owners and operators who derive millions
in profits from the resale of stolen or fraudulently
purchased items, like formula. They would not comment
directly on the link in this case.
"There is a very, very strong connection with
what's going on here in relation to money going over
to Middle Eastern countries to fund terrorist groups
over there," White said. "We're just a little, bitty
town here. You'd never think something like that would
U.S. Customs Service spokeswoman Judy Turner in
Houston said she could not confirm whether the agency
was investigating the operation.
"The only thing that I will confirm is that the
Montgomery Police Department shared information about
what they found in that traffic stop with the U.S.
Customs Service and possibly other federal agencies,"
Turner said the agency did handle a major
investigation in Dallas regarding baby formula in the
late 1990s. In that case, at least $4 million worth of
formula was stolen from stores, repackaged in
counterfeit cartons and sold across state lines, she
"We did link the money going to countries such as
Egypt and Jordan," Turner said. "That's as far as we
Two of the van's occupants, 17-year-old Rutilio
Barrera of McAllen and 28-year-old Monica Mozeyen of
Houston, were arrested.
Barrera was taken in on felony drug charges out of
Corpus Christi and Mozeyen was sought for failing to
appear at a hearing over a Department of Public Safety
speeding ticket out of Harris County, police said.
Barrera was taken back to Corpus Christi while
Mozeyen was released after posting bond, police
Police Chief J.R. "Jackie" McDonald said the
department would pursue whatever charges it could
against Barrera and Mozeyen.
The other two occupants of the van, one juvenile
female and another adult woman, were released for lack
of any specific charges to hold them, McDonald
White said Montgomery police have fielded inquiries
into the case from law enforcement authorities in Los
Angeles, Phoenix and across Texas.