How Cartels Use Facebook Ads to Trick Border Residents Into Smuggling Drugs Into U.S.

Cartels are tricking border residents into smuggling drugs from Mexico into the U.S. by luring them with Facebook posts advertising job opportunities.

The head of Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso, Texas, revealed to Border Report how agents are seeing "quite a few cases" of individuals recruited on Facebook to transport money to money exchange houses.

"However, a vast majority of these solicitations are fraudulent," Erik P. Breitzke said.

Typically, an individual interested in the alleged job opportunity is directed to Juarez, Mexico to interview with an apparent boss for the position, Border Report wrote.

The interview takes place in a random office or parking lot and unbeknownst to the interviewee, someone secretly goes to hide drugs in their vehicle.

"These organizations are taking these folks vehicles, secreting drugs in those vehicles and those folks are getting stopped and caught at the ports of entry," Breitzke detailed.

A common ad posting identified by HSI agents across the U.S. says, "Our company is looking for individuals who are able to cross into El Paso. We work directly with the (money exchange houses) and transport money from El Paso and Ciudad, Juarez (Mexico)," according to Border Report.

Santa Cruz County, Arizona, Sheriff David Hathaway told Fox News that "90 percent of the mules, the ones that are bringing the drugs into the U.S., are U.S. citizens."

He added most drugs enter the U.S. from Mexico through legal ports of entry.

If the individual lured by a Facebook ad makes it past customs at the border, they are told to head to a money exchange location to deliver the money or paperwork, according to Border Report.

When they arrive, someone will unload the drugs from their car, making the drug smuggling operation a success.

"If an opportunity seems too good, it probably is," Breitzke warned. "It has been enough of a trend that we needed to alert the community that this is happening."

He said being caught with contraband in a car runs the risk of an arrest and conviction.

"Do not allow yourself to be used as a smuggler," he said.

"It is impossible to know how often people are lured into drug smuggling by these ads; however, criminal organizations post multiple ads on Facebook each day targeting individuals in the El Paso region," Leticia Zamarripa, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told Newsweek.

When a job recruiter requests an interview "make sure the interview is in a professional setting, such as an office, and not a parking lot or other unconventional site," Zamarripa said, when asked to recommend advice to Facebook users who come across certain job ads.

"Legitimate businesses do not conduct interviews in parking lots," she said.

Zamarripa added that job seekers should research the name and address of the company that is recruiting them, obtain the employer's information and ask for company identification.

"Do not entrust your vehicles and safety to 'job recruiters' you meet online," she said.

A Facebook spokesperson told Newsweek that the platform does not "allow people to sell or solicit drugs."

"Nor do we allow designated criminal organizations to operate on our platform. We remove posts and reject ads when we see this kind of behavior to help keep people safe," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson noted that Facebook works with law enforcement and deletes postings that go against the site's policy when a concern is raised about an ad that is an alleged drug smuggling lure.

U.S. Border Patrol's most recent data for nationwide checkpoint drug seizures shows that in the month of May, 758 pounds of marijuana was seized along with 311 pounds of methamphetamines and 179 pounds of cocaine.

Other drugs seized were, 129 pounds of heroin, 104 pounds of fentanyl and two pounds of drugs listed as "other."

Newsweek reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection but did not hear back in time for publication.

Updated 06/22/2021, 5:40 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to include comments from Zamarripa.

Updated 06/23/2021, 9:50 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include comments from Facebook.

Homeland Security Investigations Officers
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers stand guard near cocaine seized from a cargo ship at a Philadelphia port during a news conference at the U.S. Custom House on June 21, 2019 in Philadelphia. HSI special agent Erik P. Breitzke detailed to Border Report how border residents are tricked by cartels into smuggling drugs into the U.S. from Mexico through Facebook advertisement lures. Eduardo Munoz/Getty Images