Drone-Smuggled Heroin|Nabbed – This Time

     (CN) – In the first plea of its kind, two California teenagers pleaded guilty Tuesday to possessing 28 lbs. of heroin that was smuggled into the United States with drones.
     Jonathan Elias and Brayan Valle, both of El Centro, Calif., face up to 20 years in federal prison and $250,000 fines for possession of heroin with intent to distribute and aiding and abetting.
     The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego said it’s believed to be the first case in which Uncle Sam thwarted Mexican drug traffickers who smuggled with unmanned drones.
     Elias, 18, admitted he drove his 19-year-old cohort to pick up the drone-smuggled drugs in a field near Calexico on April 28. They stashed the “packages of narcotics” in a bag and put it in the trunk of the car, but were nabbed by the Border Patrol, the U.S. attorney said in a statement. They admitted they knew there were drugs in the packages but said they did not know how much.
     Prosecutors did not say how many drones were used, but apparently there was more than one, as the total haul came to 28½ lbs.
     At $100 a gram, 28½ lbs. would bring in $14 million on the street.
     Even cutting police estimates of drug prices in half – not an unreasonable thing to do – the heroin was worth $7 million.
     A Homeland Security spokesman called drug smuggling by drone “an emerging threat.”
     Drug smugglers have used “every conceivable method to move their drugs over, under and through the border,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. “We have found their tunnels, their Cessnas, their jet skis, their pangas, and now we have found their drones.”
     It’s not likely to stop the smugglers. Elias and Valle did not control the drones. They were busted in a car. With drone use virtually unregulated in the United States, save near airports, it’s only a matter of time until smugglers learn to fly their drone loads right in through a window.

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