EL PASO – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agriculture specialists noted an increase in smuggled food and agriculture items as many people returned to the U.S. after spending the holidays in Mexico.
“During this time of the year it is not uncommon for people who spend time in Mexico to attempt to return to their U.S. homes with prohibited goods,” said Hector Mancha, director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s El Paso Port. “We would remind those travelers that the CBP inspection process is thorough and violators face the risk of significant civil penalties.”
The largest penalty was assessed in a cheese smuggling case at the Paso Del Norte port of entry in El Paso. CBP officers were performing inspections on Dec. 28 when a 2008 Chevrolet HHR arrived at the primary inspection booth. CBP officers received a negative declaration for any plant, fruit, meat or vegetable products.
But when CBP officers searched the vehicle, they discovered 10 wheels of cheese weighing 116.5 pounds hidden in the spare tire well. CBP officers seized and destroyed the cheese and assessed a penalty of $697.84, which was the domestic value of the smuggled product.