Prosecutors and a federal judge concede that law-abiding travelers are unwittingly used to smuggle narcotics across the Texas-Mexico border, reports the Houston Chronicle. When their vehicles or bags are searched on entering the U.S., inspectors find thousands of dollars worth of illegal narcotics that the travelers can’t explain. An indictment was dropped against a bus-riding Mexican citizen headed to Houston. In exchange for a free ride on the bus, he ushered two saddles and other cargo through U.S. customs. Hidden inside the saddles was $20,000 worth of cocaine.
It is unclear how many federal cases involve so-called unwitting couriers. Such cases are not tracked by the government. Federal data show that in 2009, 3,846 defendants were federally charged with drug trafficking in the region that stretches from El Paso to Houston. Of those, 126 were dismissed, 17 were found guilty and the rest pleaded guilty.