ESCONDIDO — U.S. Border Patrol agents in San Diego seized more than $3 million in smuggled cash during a traffic stop this week off Interstate 15 in North County San Diego .
A 53-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested during the traffic stop the agency announced Friday. A second suspected smuggler, a 41-year-old Mexican national, was found nearby after abandoning his vehicle and hiding in some nearby bushes.
Border Patrol Agent Mark Endicott, supervisor for the San Diego Sector, said the seizure was the largest in the sector’s history. “It was quite a significant seizure,” Endicott said about the sizable seizure.
The traffic stop was initiated at about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday when an agent stopped a Kia Forte after the vehicle exited I-15 onto W. Country Club Lane in Escondido.
“The agent suspected that the driver of the Kia Forte was driving in tandem with a Volkswagen Passat, which sped off as the vehicle stop was in progress,” Endicott said.
Additional agents including a Border Patrol K9 began searching the Kia. The K9 almost immediately alerted the agents of something suspicious inside the Kia. At that point agents conducted a more thorough search of the vehicle at which time they allegedly found eight vacuum-sealed bundles stashed in the center console. The bundles were filled with $33,880 in cash.
While agents were searching the Kia, other agents converged on the area to look for the second vehicle. Agents located the Volkswagen Passat abandoned in a cul-de-sac within the same residential area where the first vehicle stop took place.
Agents searched the Passat and discovered eight boxes in the trunk. The cash in the Volkswagen’s trunk totaled just over $3 million in cash, Endicott stated.
“This amount of money represents the largest currency seizure ever in San Diego Sector,” said Chief Patrol Agent Richard Barlow. “The hard work and perseverance demonstrated by the involved agents was essential for this outcome.”
The two suspects, who were not identified, were turned over to Homeland Security Investigations and are facing federal charges on suspicion of currency smuggling, Endicott said.
The U.S. Border Patrol maintains a high level of vigilance in corridors of egress away from our Nation’s borders to prevent the illicit smuggling of humans, drugs, and other contraband. To report suspicious activity to the U.S. Border Patrol, contact San Diego Sector at (619) 498-9900.