It worked for a while, but 25-year-old Jorge Edwin Rivera’s alleged use of a drone to smuggle methamphetamine across the border from Mexico caught up with him and led to his arrest Friday, officials say.
Authorities say he used the drone to try to smuggle more than 13.44 pounds of meth into the United States. Rivera reportedly admitted to using the drone to smuggle drugs five or six times since March. Border officials say he typically delivered drugs to an accomplice at a nearby gas station in San Diego.
According to Customs and Border Protection, Rivera’s last haul had a street value of $46,000.
Border Patrol spotted the drone on Aug. 8 and tracked it to Rivera about 2,000 yards from the border.
The use of drones to smuggle drugs is not common, because, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a recent annual report, they can only transport small amounts at a time. In addition, they can’t fly for long periods on one charge of their batteries, and they generate inconvenient noise.
However, Alana Robinson, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, believes the use of drones could become more widespread, because the drone operator can stay far away from where the drugs are dropped, theoretically reducing the chances of getting caught. That apparently did not prove to be the case this time.
“The Border Patrol is very aware of the potential and are always listening and looking for drones,” Robinson said.
Rivera is being held without bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 7.