New roads help cartels skirt usual checkpoints

“They are using those roads to transport drugs, guns, ammo, you name it,” said Albert DeLeon, chief deputy for the Dimmit County sheriff’s office.

U.S. Border Patrol agents in March discovered a record 18,665 pounds of marijuana stashed aboard two trucks heading down the same private ranch road in an effort to avoid a highway checkpoint. The road was one of many that have been leased to energy companies and improved to accommodate legitimate traffic related to Eagle Ford Shale operations.

Energy companies boring into the depths of South Texas for natural gas and oil are opening a growing fissure in border security as they build hundreds of miles of private back roads and an uncharted pipeline to the U.S. interior for drug traffickers.

Roads running through once remote ranch lands now enable loaded-down tractor-trailers and pickups to avoid Border Patrol highway checkpoints that long have been the last line of defense for stopping traffic headed farther into the United States.

Traffickers are seeking to use the southwest-most stretches of the massive Eagle Ford Shale formation, which stretches from Mexico to East Texas, to their advantage by trying to corrupt truck drivers, contractors and gate personnel.

Authorities also speculate that they are trying to make “cloned” copies of legitimate trucks and use contractor-like vehicles to avoid standing out among fleets of oil-field service vehicles working for energy companies.

In some cases, vehicles have been stolen and are believed to have been used by smugglers.


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