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Drug Cartels Cloning Official Vehicles to Move Drugs, Money

Updated: Wednesday, June 11 2014, 10:31 AM CDT

Last year, U.S. Border Patrol agents seized nearly two and a half million pounds of marijuana, and nearly 4,000 pounds of cocaine. But now, it's getting harder to tell who the bad guys are, because of their ride.

When Tucson, Arizona Border Patrol agents seized a truck last week, the decals from the "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service" looked spot-on. In its flatbed though, they found marijuana, in bundles, worth $1.6 million.

It's what federal authorities call a "clone" or "faked" vehicle, and they're not unusual , as CBS' Anna Werner found.

It all goes back to 2007, when a police officer in the little town of George West, Texas attempted to pull over what looked like a Texas Department of Transportation, or "TXDOT" truck . When asked what the truck would look like to a casual observer, George West Sergeant Jorge Medina says, "just like a typical TXDOT truck, from the exempt plates, to the stickers, the insignia."

But the license plate belonged to a school district. So Sgt. Medina stopped it. "As I walked up to the truck, they, they took off," he says.

He gave chase, until the driver lost control and the truck spun out. "It had flipped over, and there's black bundles scattered all over," says Sgt. Medina. Those black bundles turned out to be nearly one ton of marijuana.

Since then, law enforcement officials in South Texas, like Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor of Victoria County, have been on the lookout. They say they've stopped all sort of vehicles, anything you can think of, they have stopped it.

Traffickers will seemingly "fake" any vehicle to transport their drugs, from a cloned AT&T service truck, to a UPS semi. A Halliburton tanker that was pulled over didn't contain oil at all.  And for those planning wide distribution of their product, why not go for Wal-Mart? They've cloned Direct TV trucks, FedEx trucks, even police cars.  And would you believe a school bus? "What was really interesting was they took dummies … so that if they pass by, you see it passing, you would see it occupied," says Sheriff O'Connor

Police cannot say how many clone vehicles there are on the road. But correct spelling is essential for those who don't want to be caught. One truck law enforcement pulled over was labeled "Border Patron." "That's a common vehicle in our area except for when it says "border patron." So someone's got a sense of humor on the other side too, says Sheriff O'Connor.


Dashcam video courtesy of George West Police Department

Drug Cartels Cloning Official Vehicles to Move Drugs, Money

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