Manuel Almada Gaxiola, 44, a prominent Tijuana businessman, was stopped by US Customs, (ICE) at the San Ysidro point of entry, on October 16th, 2014. He was driving a red Dodge Ram Truck, in which was allegedly concealed 10 kilos of cocaine.
Gaxiola, and his son, own and operate, by most admissions, a successful glass company in Tijuana. He has not been seen or heard from since the day he was stopped at the border, fueling speculation he had been kidnapped. It is likely he has been in federal custody in San Diego, at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, temporary custody for defendants awaiting trial, and not yet sentenced.
Protocol for federal cases involving smuggling attempts through the international border, is dependent upon the the size and scope of the matter. It is likely without cooperation with authorities that Gaxiola would be released anytime soon, given the amount of cocaine in his vehicle. It is also likely Gaxiola, as many failed smugglers do, is claim he was under duress, or threat.
In Tijuana, and across the border, there are cases of 'blind mule' smuggling, where unknowing and unwitting mules have drugs secretly attached to their car, which are covertly removed after the crossing. The recorded cases are usually pounds qualities of marijuana, which costs roughly $150 a kilo in the Sinaloa mountains, and 300-500 upon entry to the US, depending upon quality. 10 kilos carries a value of between 25-28k after the cross, making it an easy 200k worth of product.
This would likely not be a load entrusted to a 'blind mule', but likely a result of an arrangement between the businessman and drug smugglers, reached for financial reasons, or more manipulative ones. Businessmen such as Gaxiola are assets to smugglers because they cross the border often, and are considered 'clean' some even possessing Sentri passes, allowing for a cross in 15 minutes, without inspection. It is unknown if Gaxiloa possessed one at this time.
Nearly 2 years ago, in December 2012, Eugenio Velazquez, a prominent architect in Tijuana was sentenced in San Diego Federal court to 1 year imprisonment, 6 months to be served in a halfway house, for attempted to cross about 5 kilos of cocaine. In court filings and briefs presented to the judge, by his high priced, federal defense attorney, Jeremy Warren, Velazquez outlined a story of deception, friendship, and betrayal.
|Packed for smuggling|
He was contracted to do some design work on a ranch in Tijuana, several weeks into the job he observed suspicious individuals following him, and his client offered to provide security, on the job, and to and from work. In Tijuana, where brutal kidnappings are common, and few are safe, Velazquez accepted. Months later, the client informed him his bill was past due. 40,000k for the bodyguards and protection, or he could cross the cocaine, and the debt would be forgiven. He and his family would be killed, in any other version of the proposition.
Not having the money, and being the loser of a coin toss, between him and a associate, Velasquez drove the kilos up to the inspection point, on his wife's birthday, in their minivan, where the smugglers had concealed the drugs. Velazquez, as will Gaxiola, faced a mandatory minimum of a 10 year sentence, but the judged ruled in favor of leniency, based on his clean record, and likely his cooperation with federal prosecutors, allowed for a much lower sentence.
If the story of Gaxiola follows the same trajectory as Velasquez, he will be released on a small bond, and receive a downward departure for his cooperation. It's a murky world of promises, deceit, greed, and for some death, and tan jumpsuits in federal prison.
Sources: AFN Tijuana, Ut San Diego, Huffington Post