$151,306 found in cans at Stanton bridge
Annette Arrigucci, El Paso Times
Special to In Homeland Security
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized more than $150,000 in cash hidden in soft drink cans on Wednesday at the Stanton Street international bridge, CBP officials said.
Juan Francisco Dominguez Morales, 59, of San Diego, was driving a pickup into Mexico about 3:40 a.m. when a Border Patrol agent checking southbound traffic pulled over the truck for a search.
A CBP currency and firearms detection dog alerted agents to a duffel bag that contained $6,000, officials said.
Agents then found four unopened soft-drink cans with 1,549 rolled-up bills in U.S. and Mexican currency hidden inside. The cash totaled $151,306, CBP officials said.
The money rolls were inside empty aluminum tea and soda cans.
Papers with what appeared to be the names of people were also found with the cans, according to photographs provided by the CBP.
It was not disclosed where the money came from or where it was going.
Dominguez Morales was arrested and turned over to ICE agents for federal prosecution. He was booked into the El Paso County Jail without bond.
Border-crossers are allowed to carry any amount of cash in or out of the U.S. If the money totals more than $10,000, it must be reported to the CBP. A person may file a petition for the return of the seized cash, but the petitioner must prove that the source of the money was legitimate.
It is not uncommon for Mexican drug cartels to smuggle large amounts of drug cash
from cities across the U.S. into Mexico.
U.S. authorities regularly check vehicles headed into Mexico looking for guns, cash and stolen vehicles.
“The combined efforts of our CBP officers working together with Border Patrol agents in the outbound area creates a force multiplier effect that results in significant seizures,” Hector Mancha, CBP port director in El Paso, said in a statement. “Every single dollar we stop from being smuggled out of the country makes it harder for criminal organizations to further their illegal activity.”
Annette Arrigucci may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6372. Times reporter Daniel Borunda contributed to this report. ___