Drug smugglers have developed another strange method to stay under the radar, CBS News reports. Traffickers are “cloning” vehicles that look like official government or corporate trucks, even down to the paint jobs and markings.
At least 15 of these startingly deceptive vehicles have been seized around southern Texas since in recent years, carrying 10 tons of marijuana in total, a local sheriff told CBS.
Those include vehicles made by drug traffickers to resemble government and company vehicles from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Postal Service, AT&T, FedEx, Wal-Mart, and Direct TV.
One of the more bizarre incidents involved a cloned yellow school bus spotted in October 2012, as the Texas Department of Public Safety noted in a 2013 report.
A McMullen County, Texas police officer stopped a school bus labelled like it belonged to the Laredo Independent School District. The driver was apprehended after fleeing on foot. The modified interior contained mannequin heads resembling students and 2,772 pounds of marijuana.
Last year, police officers tried to stop a suspicious Chevrolet Tahoe closely resembling an unmarked police car before the smugglers flashed the vehicle’s red and blue emergency lights and drove away, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which blames the cloned vehicles on Mexican drug cartels trafficking drugs into and through Texas.
An early run-in with these cloned vehicles occurred when Police Officer Jorge Medina tried to pull over a Texas Department of Transportation truck in 2007 because the licence plate belonged to a school district. A car chase ensued, but when the truck flipped over, black bundles fell out along the road containing nearly a ton of marijuana.
“I think they probably spend a lot of time seeing what type of clone they can make,” O’Connor told CBS News, adding that some of them are “excellent” fakes.
Other seized vehicles were capable of carrying tons of illegal drugs, like a fake Halliburton oil tanker and UPS 18-wheeler, according to CBS News.
In one instance, A phony ambulance was found with EMTs and a patient inside — all mannequins. The real cargo was in the ceiling, where police found stashed marijuana.
But even the resourceful traffickers made a careless mistake by misspelling an impostor Border Patrol truck with the words “Border Patron.” And no, they weren’t carrying tequila from Mexico.
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