Two El Centro residents pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to drug charges , admitting that they smuggled 28 pounds of heroin into the United States using drones.
Jonathan Elias , 18 , and Brayan Valle , 19 , both El Centro residents , admitted that on or about April 28 , 2015 , Elias drove Valle to pick up packages of drugs that were smuggled by drones near Calexico. According to the U. S. Attorney's Office , Valle used a drone controller to pick up packages of narcotics. Those packages contained approximately 28.55 pounds of heroin. The pair put the drugs in the trunk of their vehicle. They were subsequently stopped by U.S. Border Patrol agents. This is believed to be the first international narcotics seizure by U.S. law enforcement involving the use of drones by Mexican drug traffickers , according to Homeland Security Investigations.
U. S. Attorney Laura Duffy said, " With border security tight , drug traffickers have thought of every conceivable method to move their drugs over , under and through the border. We have found their tunnels , their Cessnas , their jet skis , their pangas , and now we have found their drones."
Elias and Valle face a maximum penalty of 20 years in custody ; $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Sentencing for the pair is scheduled for October 20, 2015 before U. S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel.