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Wealthy, attractive and female: A different face for drug smuggling

From the Houston Chronicle:

Three striking sisters, women in their 20s from the Mexican metropolis of Monterrey, were riding in the back of a late-model minivan with friends toward the shopping malls of Houston, when a Laredo customs agent noticed something out of place.

The driver of the white 2005 Chrysler Voyager with Nuevo Leon plates, a 42-year-old hairdresser, seemed a bit too nervous for a northbound shopper at the No. 2 International bridge. And inspectors noticed that the women appeared overly voluptuous, particularly in the bust, thighs and bottom.

All five were ordered out and patted down, where — under layers of fashionable clothing — each wore five to seven pounds of cocaine bricks with a total street value of nearly $1 million. The sister smugglers and their friends recently were sentenced to serve up to 74 months in federal prison here.

All were first-time offenders but part of a growing wave of “mulas,” female smugglers who bring unique characteristics and techniques to the border drug trade. Notably, they can hide drug shipments between breasts, stuffed in brassieres, wigs and in other distinctively feminine clothing, in faked pregnancies or even surgically implanted in the buttocks, according to government agents and a 2008 study of women smugglers by an El Paso professor.

Drug trade participation by female smugglers has “increased exponentially” in the past 20 to 30 years, according to research by El Paso-based anthropology professor Howard Campbell.

In 2008, Campbell published a profile of El Paso/Juarez area female smugglers based partly on interviews with more than 50 mulas, money laundresses and so-called narco-reinas whose exploits are now celebrated alongside those of men. Their interviews show many female smugglers are attracted by easy money and a certain shady social status, though most were recruited by men: boyfriends, husbands or male relatives who are traffickers, users or indebted to cartels.

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

July 14, 2009 at 11:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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