Posted: Feb 8, 2012 12:02 PM
Updated: Feb 8, 2012 12:15 PM
Local authorities are doing what the feds can't. They're going after some specific drug smugglers: teens too young for the feds to prosecute but old enough to face stiff charges at the state level.
Federal agents caught two teens with bundles of drugs. They're both 17. Their age makes them juveniles in the federal court system. Pursuing cases against them would be tough. In Texas, it's a whole different story because 17 is considered an adult.
Federal agents routinely pass the baton to local guys. Take the case against Ricardo Moreno Jr. The teen was caught with six bundles of cocaine Monday. Authorities arrested him at a border bridge in Brownsville. Moreno was handed off to Harlingen police. His age and the small load, 16-pounds, make it difficult to prosecute in federal court.
"In Texas, of course, at the age of 17, you are considered an adult and can be prosecuted as an adult in the state of Texas," says Harlingen police Sgt. John Parrish.
Harlingen police say Moreno was charged with possession of a controlled substance. If convicted. Moreno could spend life in prison.
"If they're doing something illegal and they need to be arrested with charges filed, then they will be," says Parrish.
Border Patrol agents picked up 17-year-old Domingo Duran. He was with other men. The group from Matamoros was caught with 250 pounds of marijuana near El Ranchito. The Border Patrol passed him over to the DEA and Customs officers. The case went to Harlingen.
"Everybody is working together, as a unit, trying to stop the flow of drugs into our country," says Parrish.
Steve McCraw, director of the Texas DPS, warns smugglers will become younger.
"The cartels are recruiting our youth, our most precious asset. They're recruiting them to engage in trafficking activities, smuggling activities and in some cases to participate in death squads," says McCraw.
If the feds can't prosecute teens, the local guys will.
Ricardo Moreno Jr. was charged with drug possession and hit with a $200,000 bond. Domingo Duran was given a $35,000 bond and deportation back to Mexico. Their case will go before a Cameron County judge.