A string of drug busts in Minnesota involving marijuana being smuggled across the border in brand new Ford Fusions has triggered an ongoing investigation. It is believed that the cartel of former drug lord “El Chapo” is involved.
Between February and March of this year, about 1,100 pounds of marijuana was discovered hidden in the trunks of at least 22 new Ford Fusions that were made in Mexico. The weed was worth about $1.4 million, wrote Alpha News in an excellent and detailed report from (which you should definitely check out).
The St. Paul Police Department said in a police report that on Feb. 10, 2017, it was contacted by the local railway police with a narcotics complaint. They had received a railcar that held 15 cars from Mexico. Thirteen of the 15 had already been sent out to dealerships a few days before.
The remaining two 2017 Ford Fusions were to go out that day. When the truck driver went to do his pre-shipment inspection, he found big bundles of what seemed to be drugs in the spare tire compartment in both cars.
The responding officer wrote:
In the spare compartment in the trunk of the car [were] two black garbage bags. Inside the two grabage bags were two large Saran-wrapped blocks. Under the Saran wrap was a tar-like substance, and coffee grounds. Under that was a layer of tin foil. Inside the tin foil was a green leafy substance I suspected to be marijuana. I estimated that each block weighed approximately 20 pounds.
In total, about 80 pounds of suspected marijuana was retrieved from both cars. The officer was given an invoice for all 15 cars in the railcar, which included the dealership locations the other 13 had been shipped to.
According to Alpha News, one of the Fusions was purchased by an 87-year-old man. Alpha News did not specify whether he managed to enjoy the extra feature on his Fusion.
The other twelve cars went out to various dealerships across the state and three wound up at a Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Aiport Enterprise rental center and were ready to be rented out.
The police managed to retrieve all of the drugs from the cars. Each had between 40 to 60 pounds of weed stuffed in their spare tire wells.
The SPPD wrote that the railway police believed that, since the cars came from Mexico, someone in Mexico loaded the cars up with the drugs and then shipped them off via railcar. After the train crossed the U.S. border and stopped for inspection, the “co-conspirator” on the U.S. side would break into the railcars and retrieve the drugs.
The railway police said that it was “an ongoing problem for them” and that they believed that “someone forgot and or missed the opportunity to retrieve their narcotics on the U.S. side of the border,” according to the police report.
A similar case popped up on March 10, 2017 with the Dilworth Police after the railway police started telling employees to make routine checks on new cars being shipped through the rail system.
In total, the Dilworth police said that it found about 217 pounds of weed in seven cars, with a value of about $272,000.
(We should note that, by our math, at roundabout $60 for an eighth of marihuana, 60 pounds of weed would be about $460,800 in street value. Dilworth police, where are you buying your weed?)
Alpha News spoke with a licensed U.S. customs broker, who speculated that the drugs may have been loaded into the Fords at the Ford manufacturing facility “after quality inspection but before loading into the railcar.” He added,
“The plant assembly employees sometimes only make $50 USD a week, leaving a huge window for bribery. It’s not unheard of for impoverished foreign nationals to take payoffs, especially since what the cartels can pay may equal a year’s worth of wages or if they threaten the employee or their family.”
“Only 4% of commercial shipments are actually inspected by CBP, leaving a huge opportunity for smuggling drugs, weapons, and people into the United States. However, CBP has caught drug smugglers who put hiding spots for drugs in the casts of molded parts. It isn’t hard to know which shipment the cars with the drug stash are on. Spotters can identify rail car numbers and shipping manifests are public knowledge. And a couple of pounds of drugs in each car wouldn’t raise an eyebrow like extra weight would in ocean freight.”
“Ford utilizes a supply chain security program known as Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or C-TPAT for short. Shippers can voluntarily enroll in the program, provided they police their own shipments. Factory employees would be the only ones who knew the security rounds, inspection times, and loading schedules.”
“CBP (Customs and Border Protection) relies heavily on pre-importation electronic screening, which reviews the shipment information in a government database and then identifies whether it is to be X-ray or physically inspected by CBP. Importers with the same kind of commodity coming from recognized shippers would probably be less likely to be physically inspected, especially a land-based importation.”
The Ford Fusion is made at the Ford plant in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, which is located in an area that is controlled by the Sinaloa drug cartel—a cartel which the DEA says “maintains the most significant presence in the United States.”
The Sinaloa cartel is responsible for supplying billions of dollars’ worth of drugs internationally—and was once led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, one of the most infamous drug lords in the world. In July 2015, El Chapo escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico. He was finally captured again in Jan. 2016, putting an end to one of the biggest manhunts in modern Mexican history.
In 2003, Ford announced via a press release that, despite the well-known drug activity in the Hermosillo area, it would still begin building mid-sized cars at the Hermosillo plant in 2005. The company claimed that it was to save costs:
During the next decade, Ford expects to save up to $2 billion in North America because its flexible system will cost 10 percent to 15 percent less than traditional systems, with an added 50 percent savings in changeover costs.
It is unclear whether or not knowledge of the cartel’s activities had any influence on Ford’s decision to shift manufacturing to Hermosillo. It’s also unclear if Ford was previously aware that its cars were being used to ship drugs into the United States and, if it was, what measures are being taken to stop that from continuing to happen.
In an email, a Ford spokesperson wrote, “We are aware of the situation and are cooperating with the investigation.”
As I’m sitting here, laboriously typing this all out to you, I just want to scream THIS WOULDN’T BE AN ISSUE IF WE JUST LEGALIZED THE POT.
You know what? Fuck it. Let’s legalize everything. Whatever. Let the shit sort itself out. Starting with Minnesota.