Tucson Border Patrol Chief Warns Quick Cash Is Not Worth It as Human Smuggling Continues to Rise

Tucson Sector Chief Board Patrol Agent John Modlin released a warning Monday that American citizens need to be wary of being recruited by criminal organizations to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border because any promises of quick cash do not erase the real punishments smugglers face.

“Criminal organizations will exploit anyone to do their dirty work,” Modlin shared. “Recognize the traps on social media. Don’t fall victim to false promises: Smuggling is a felony.”

Modlin’s announcement shared the testimony of a young man, whose name was not revealed, who was recruited to smuggle illegal immigrants into America. He said the advertisement promised $3,000 for completing the job but did not share that he would drive illegal immigrants. The young man completed the first job without consequences, but he shared that the money brought him back for a second run which was not so lucky. After being arrested, he faces federal charges.

Smuggling an immigrant into the United States can bring upwards of 10 years in prison, and the sentences can rise if there are injuries or death involved in the trafficking.

“Felony charges, losing your vehicle, losing scholarships and jobs, damaging your future, or the future of someone else is not worth it,” said Cheri Oz of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Phoenix Division.

Modlin (pictured above) said more testimonies from young people arrested for smuggling illegal immigrants would come shortly.

Aside from these testimonies, Modlin shares examples of these arrests happening constantly. Most recently, he shared Monday that four illegal immigrants were found in a car driven by two American citizens. They were aged 19 and 21 and were arrested following the traffic stop. In a similar incident on April 11, agents at the Ajo station found 12 illegal immigrants camouflaged in a truck bed. All illegal immigrants and one American were arrested on the spot. So far in April alone, Modlin has made announcements regarding 17 different human smuggling incidents, 13 of which involved a U.S. citizen driver.

A February report from NewsNation revealed how badly this issue impacts Cochise County. Reportedly, drivers are offered between $500 and $1,000 for each person they drive. One recruited individual said he communicated with someone on WhatsApp and was repeatedly told it was “just a transportation job” by his “boss” after responding to a “daily work for easy money” post on Instagram. The man was arrested during the smuggling attempt.

The county has booked citizens as young as 13 for smuggling, and of the 1,578 arrests made in 2022, 1,500 were Americans. County Sheriff Mark Dannels said international criminal organizations and cartels use these ads to lure in citizens, so they can keep their hands clean when things go south for the driver.

ABC News showed that many of the ads used by organizations often brandish large stacks of cash and say what destinations the driver needs to hit but do not share much information beyond this.

The Arizona District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday that one of these smuggling masterminds is headed behind bars. Adrian Duran-Estrada, 39, of Tucson, will spend the next 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervision, after conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants between May 2019 and May 2021. The announcement detailed that he used WhatsApp and other communications to direct drivers in bringing illegal immigrants over the border. Duran-Estrada’s co-conspirators who carried out the smuggling, Kaitlan Cox, Arturo Alday Cordova, and Bruce Rivera, were also sentenced, with Cox getting two years in prison, Cordova getting eight months, and Rivera will be on probation for the next three years.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “John Modlin” by John Modlin.




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