Two California teenagers pleaded guilty in federal court to drug charges, admitting they smuggled 28 pounds of heroin into the United States using drones.
“This is believed to be the first international narcotics seizure by U.S. law enforcement involving the use of drones by Mexican drug traffickers, according to Homeland Security Investigations,” the DOJ said.
Jonathan Elias, 18, and Brayan Valle, 19, both residents of El Centro, California, entered guilty pleas before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Lewis to possession of heroin with intent to distribute and aiding and abetting.
In April this year, Elias drove Valle to pick up packages of drugs that were smuggled by drones to a field in Calexico, California, near the border.
“Using a drone controller, Valle picked up packages of narcotics and placed them inside a bag,” the DOJ said.
The pair put the drugs in the trunk of their car and were later stopped by U.S. Border Patrol agents.
“[D]rug traffickers have thought of every conceivable method to move their drugs over, under and through the border,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said.
“We have found their tunnels, their Cessnas, their jet skis, their pangas [boats], and now we have found their drones,” she said.
Elias and Valle each face up to twenty years in federal prison and fines of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for October 20.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.