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Border Patrol Agents Say Human Smugglers Now Using Drones

A new criminal complaint filed in McAllen, Texas, federal court this week indicates that Border Patrol agents have seen a recent increase in the use of drone technologies for human smuggling.

(TNS) — A criminal complaint filed in McAllen federal court this week indicates Border Patrol agents have seen a recent increase in the use of drones for human smuggling.

That document charges Edson Flores-Martinez, a Mexican citizen born in 1993, with attempting to transport seven people who had entered the country illegally.

Flores-Martinez was allegedly trying to smuggle seven people into the country in a black Ford F-150 about 2:40 p.m. Monday. Agents spotted the vehicle after they noticed a drone hovering near an orchard in McAllen.

"In the days prior, ( Border Patrol) had seen an increase in drones being used for human smuggling activities, and had apprehended subjects in a smuggling event within the same vicinity that involved drone scouting and similar circumstances," the complaint said.

And sure enough, Border Patrol found seven people who had illegally entered the country in the area.

It's well known that smugglers incorporate new technology like drones into illegal efforts.

Earlier this week, Border Patrol agents in Arizona reported finding a drone equipped with GPS that was carrying a little more than six pounds of heroin.

In a statement, Border Patrol officials said Rio Grande Valley agents haven't seen any incidents akin to what their counterparts encountered in Arizona.

"We do frequently spot drones making incursions into the U.S. We know that smugglers are using this technology for counter surveillance. They will fly drones to scout for the presence of law enforcement and at times will guide their smuggling attempts in real time," Border Patrol said in the statement. "The drones that we're encountering are smaller models and not designed to carry a significant payload. Our agents remain vigilant and are always monitoring for these types of incidents."

As for Flores, after his arrest, he said he agreed to play a role in the alleged smuggling event to pay off his smuggling fee of $6,000 and to be taken to Houston. He also said he was given step-by-step instructions over the phone during the failed smuggling attempt.

Flores was temporarily being held without bond Friday pending further court proceedings, records show.

© 2021 The Monitor (McAllen, Texas). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.