Last week along the border fence of Douglas, Arizona, U.S. Border Patrol agents spotted a white truck that had official U.S. Fish and Wildlife decals after being tipped off that the truck was possibly smuggling drugs.
When the agents attempted to make contact with the driver, the truck suddenly stopped and two men fled south into Mexico. Upon seizure of the vehicle, the agents found 3,200 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated $1.6 million.
According to reports, the truck’s Fish and Wildlife decals were fake. This, of course, is not unprecedented. In fact, over the last few years, there has been a developing culture of “clone vehicles” that is tied with the drug cartel.
The very first report of a “clone vehicle” came way back in 2007 when a police officer from the small town of George West, Texas attempted to pull over a truck that looked to belong to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Officer Jorge Medina says, “[It looked] just like a typical Tex-Dot truck, from the exempt plates to the stickers, the insignia. But as I walked up to the truck, they took off.”
Medina continued to pursue the highly suspicious truck until the driver lost control and the truck spun out.
“It had flipped over, and there’s black bundles scattered all over.” These bundles contained nearly 2,000 pounds of marijuana.
Since that time, there have been dozens of reports of “clone vehicles” being caught, ranging from AT&T service trucks to police cars, school buses, and even ambulances.
Ben Geman of the National Journal says, “Because there are so many different companies, and so many different trucks going through that area, it provides a sort of way to blend in if you will.”
“Essentially what’s happening is you’ve got smugglers who are stashing marijuana, or other drugs, in trucks that are either ‘cloned’ to look like one of the industry trucks, or some type of truck that seems to fit right in driving around on these ranch lands.”
Currently, the DEA estimates that the drugs brought across just the Mexico-Arizona border generate $10 billion for drug cartels annually. For police, the movement towards “cloned vehicles” has made it even more challenging to protect the border and battle the cartel.