02/21/2007

Ariz. border agents seize 2 tons of pot

By BRADY McCOMBS
The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

U.S. Border Patrol agents found more than two tons of marijuana inside two camouflaged trucks Sunday morning west of Casa Grande that a Bureau of Land Management Ranger had been pursuing.

At approximately 6:45 a.m. Sunday, Border Patrol agents responded to near the town of Stanfield to provide assistance to the ranger who was pursuing two trucks covered in camouflage tarps on Stanfield Road near Interstate 8, said Rob Daniels, Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesman.

The ranger began the pursuit after seeing one truck suspiciously towing the other, Daniels said. When the ranger approached the trucks, one of them rammed the ranger's vehicle.

The drivers of the camouflaged trucks tried to get away and eventually bailed out, escaping into the desert in the area, Daniels said. The ranger wasn't injured, he said.

Agents found 253 bundles of marijuana weighing 4,660 pounds and a loaded .45 pistol inside the abandoned trucks, he said. The first truck, a 2006 GMC truck reported stolen out of San Diego was turned over to the Department of Public Safety and the second truck, a 2004 Chevy, is being processed for forfeiture by the Border Patrol.

The marijuana, which has an estimated value of $4.6 million according to figures from the National Drug Intelligence Center, was turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Agents turned the pistol over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Agents didn't make any arrests in connection with the case.

The use of sophisticated camouflage tarps to conceal the loads is something agents are seeing more in the Tucson Sector, Daniels said.

"You can definitely tell that they are built for whatever vehicle they are being used on," Daniels said. "There is some effort there."

Through Jan. 31, the latest figures the agency releases, marijuana seizures were up 31 percent in the Tucson Sector for fiscal year 2007. Seizures in fiscal year 2006 broke all previous records.

"It clearly has not slowed down and we really don't expect any kind of a slow down whatsoever," Daniels said. "We're definitely still being tested."

In another Border Patrol related incident, agents apprehended a group of 82 illegal entrants on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument about a half mile north of the Camino Del Diablo Road. They were arrested and voluntarily returned to Mexico, he said.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at or 520-573-4213.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Arizona Daily Star

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