The illegal smuggling business that ultimately victimizes so many people on both sides of the border utilizes every sort of transport you can possibly imagine. Now I will begin discussing a few of the more common examples of this with regard to other types of vehicles.
I've already discussed the basics of the use of trucks for smuggling in "Hill Country Holidays" (12/29/09) and elsewhere; now it's time to add a few interesting details for those not in the know. A current trend among smugglers is the use of fake business trucks. By this, I mean they take a plain truck and paint it to match those belonging to well-known businesses that are so ubiquitous on our highways as to not draw any undue attention. Law enforcement once intercepted a large drug shipment that was being hauled in a fake Walmart truck that, at least on casual inspection, looked very much like the real thing.
I also have reason to suspect that moving vans are being used for smuggling. They can come and go from houses easily, hold a lot, and are easy to hide things in. I found a scrap of paper in my ex-husband's bathroom drawer when I was boxing up his things after he left in 1999 that looks like notes for some sort of delivery, and elsewhere in his things I found what appear to be keys, combinations, and numbers for storage facilities I know nothing about.
In 2004, my father and stepmother insisted on making all the arrangements with a moving company for transporting a beloved family piano to me from another state (even though I was paying). Shortly before they arrived, the movers called and asked if I could find someone to help them bring the piano inside and set it up, so I called a local man I knew would be at home and got him to come over.
After the piano was unloaded, the movers and this man went back to the van and spent 20-30 minutes together inside the trailer where I couldn't see them, after which they came out and were acting strangely. The local man was giggling about something as he left, and the movers started asking me about possible routes to their next delivery, which was in San Antonio and which they said was "a big government delivery" of some sort. (They had not let me near the back of their van, so I never saw what else was inside. It was one of the very large vans, not a small one.) However, they accidentally left a pad of paper at my house that had the actual location of this delivery on it, and it was underneath a highway overpass and not near any government installation I'm aware of.
I've already discussed RVs as well; see for example "To The Beach And Back Again" (3/16/10) and "Winter Texans" (3/26/10). Buses have been a major form of transportation used by smugglers around here for years, and there have been countless seizures of contraband from them. I've heard that around here, bus travel to and from Monterrey is especially popular. Because our area is a popular tourist destination, tour buses come in and out frequently. The same person who told me what happened to Clara George (see "People Named George" from 4/25/10) also told me drug smugglers here love the tour buses and motels/hotels because people coming in and out with suitcases at all hours don't attract attention.
A couple who managed a large motel here used to live just down the street from us, and they stalked and harassed us regularly. They also gave me one of the worst scares I've ever had. I was out walking my dog by their house one evening and saw two very large and rough-looking Hispanic males pull into their driveway, jump out, bang on their door so loudly I thought they'd break it, start arguing loudly with the husband, and cause the wife to run inside screaming. (At that point, I quickly headed home with the intention of calling 911, but the wife must have beat me to it, because I saw unmarked law enforcement vehicles speeding over there before I could get to a phone.)
I've also heard rumors of fake school buses--and a very recent newspaper article on "Operation Deliverance" specifically mentions these.
Then there are the boats. My ex-husband and his friends make frequent trips to the Texas coast, Mexico, and the Caribbean for fishing and scuba diving and have been doing this for years. Years ago I went with them on some of these trips, and even back then they were going off by themselves for long periods of time. My ex-'s aunt and uncle regularly moved their sailboat back and forth between the Bahamas and various cities on the East coast for many years after he retired at a very young age. My ex-'s family owns a ranch in West Texas along Devil's River that everyone in the family except to for canoeing trips. (I was always told there was some reason why I couldn't go, and I often wondered about this.) The foreign-born mechanic who helped my former husband build one of his airplanes had worked on foreign submarines and was an expert on both subs and planes. This man had a boat at the coast then and now apparently lives in the Florida Keys.
There are also connections to boats along our northern border around here. Many years ago, my ex-husband and I drove up to the Seattle area to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins and do some touring. While we were there, my husband and I decided to take the ferry over to Vancouver Island and do some canoeing. We found a quiet beach and unloaded the canoe. Then I stayed with the boat while my husband drove our truck back to a nearby parking lot--and disappeared! I'd expected him back in 5 or 10 minutes, and after an hour had gone by, I started wondering what was going on. Two hours later, I was frantic with worry and had not seen another soul on the deserted beach I could ask for help. (This was long before the advent of cell phones.) After several more hours went by, it was starting to get dark, and I was shaking from the cold because I had no jacket. Then two older women suddenly appeared and said they'd received a radio call from someone who asked them to find me and tell me my husband was on his way back and would pick me up shortly. The women loaned me a jacket because my teeth were chattering and waited with me until, to my relief, I saw our truck drive up.
It turned out my husband had been in jail!--and that the two women had known this but never told me. My husband said he'd been in a minor accident (and there was a small dent in the bumper) and that he'd been hauled off to jail when he couldn't produce a valid registration document. He said he'd had to make a lot of phone calls and that eventually someone my uncle knew had "taken care of it" and that everything was finally straightened out. Knowing what I know now, I suspect this was not the whole story.
I thought that experience would probably put my husband off boating in the Northwest for good, but shortly after he left in 1999, I accidentally discovered he'd been in close contact with my uncle and his son, a well-known equestrian on the international circuit with a hard-partying reputation. After our divorce, I learned my ex-husband had bought a waterfront home close to where he'd been arrested years before. My ex- and his friends go up there frequently and have taken our children along a few times. (One of these trips also involved the late Jimmy Brown.) My kids tell me there are 6 to 8 speedboats docked at this house at any given time.
Smugglers use lots of other assorted forms of transportation here. Often these are vehicles you normally take for granted: scout trailers, church vans, and official vehicles of various kinds, for example. In light of all this, the insistence of local law enforcement on making regular long-distance prisoner transport runs to Cherokee and elsewhere seems suspicious.
Update, 7/5/10: An article in this morning's San Antonio Express-News describes a drug-smuggling submarine that was just seized in Ecuador. Coincidentally, my ex-husband and his wife visited there recently. Also, my ex- had a sudden meeting down at the Texas coast yesterday with his good friend, the Australian airplane and submarine mechanic.