Cloned van sheds light on drug smuggling tactic

It is not the thousand pound marijuana seizure at a Rio Grande City home that stands out for the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, rather a van recovered from the crime scene.

We were able to see a vehicle and subjects unloading bundles of marijuana, HITDA Investigator Ismael Guerra said.

Border Patrol and HITDA found most of the drugs inside a van with a logo of a Mission plumbing company with a phone number.

We called the number and the number doesn TMt exist which leads authorities to believe it TMs a clone.

Clone vehicles are vehicles drug dealers use so they can blend in with traffic or other company vehicles, Guerra said.

At first glance they look like typical vehicles, but inside drug smugglers hide drugs that are smuggled north.

It TMs the first time since the spring the task force has encountered a clone.

We TMve had Direct TV vans, we TMve had Time Warner Cable vans, I mean several companies, Guerra said.

Authorities believe clones are commonly used.

According to a report produced by the Department of Public Safety, clone vehicles are a threat to the public because the innovative tactic can easily avoid detection.

Most officers out there in the streets already know that they are utilized for that purpose, Guerra said.

Even though clones are not often caught, it doesn TMt mean officers are not looking for them.

Guerra said clones like the van seized yesterday are easily spotted because they are out of place.

Investigators are unsure how long the clone was used for.

Four people were arrested during the drug seizure and have been handed over to Border Patrol.