Two California women are being investigated for alleged links to organized crime after they were arrested Saturday traveling south to Tijuana from San Ysidro with approximately $ 2.5 million in cash, Mexican federal authorities said Monday.
The women attempted to smuggle the money across the border in a white 2019 Cherokee pickup truck with a California license plate around 10 p.m. Saturday night, authorities said. Authorities have yet to reveal their identities.
Mexican border agents sent the couple for a secondary inspection after passing the lane of nothing to report. The money was discovered during a search of the vehicle, according to Isaías Bertín Sandoval, Baja California’s federal secretary of public safety.
Under Mexican law, if a person brings more than $ 10,000 in cash to Mexico, they are required to stop first at the border to declare the amount at customs.
Federal authorities said it was a “historical cash confiscation” carried out by the Tax Administration System (SAT), the National Guard and the Mexican army. On Monday, federal agents from the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime Investigation (SEIDO) arrived in Tijuana to continue investigating the case.
The Border News Agency was the first to report the seizure, saying that 13 packages of cash were initially discovered in the women’s suitcases. Then a search of the vehicle revealed another 87 packages of money hidden in the truck, all in US currency.
Cecilia Farfán-Méndez, the head of security research programs at the Center for Mexico-United States Studies at the University of California, San Diego, said the timing of the seizure is interesting because it indicates that the drug trafficking organization involved is not suffering financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Of all these organizations, some are in better places than others to handle the crisis during a global pandemic. Clearly, that route has no liquidity problems, “he said.
He also said it would not be surprising if there was also some cooperation by the United States law enforcement agencies in the seizure.
“Either you have the worst possible luck in the world or there was some information from the United States that ‘hey, this car can have cash in bulk,'” Farfán-Méndez said.
In January, Mexican authorities seized half a million United States dollars in cash from a woman, who was also driving a Cherokee truck, who was allegedly trying to smuggle the money into Tijuana through the Otay port of entry.
In the Mexican justice system, authorities do not release the full names of suspects or defendants in criminal trials. Their last name is only revealed if they are convicted of a crime.