Entries in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (4)


Feds Find Nearly $640K Stuffed in Tortilla Presses

A CBP officer in Cincinnati removes a roll of cash concealed in a tortilla rolling machine. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)(CINCINNATI) -- A federal customs agent who sensed there was something funny about a shipment of tortilla presses bound for Colombia drilled into one of the machines and found an extra spicy filling -- nearly $640,000 in U.S. cash.

The eight tortilla machines were shipped in two batches from an address in Mexico to Bogota, Colombia via the international package carrier DHL. The shipments passed through Cincinnati on their way to South America, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents subjected them to x-ray analysis on August 13.

"That is the way that DHL routed the shipment," said Brian Bell, a CBP spokesman based in Chicago, "so the shippers never had any knowledge that it was going to go through the US.”

After spotting an anomaly in an x-ray, an agent drilled into the roller of a tortilla press and came back with a green and white substance. After the cap at the end of the roller was removed, agents could see tight rolls of American money wrapped in plastic.

The feds seized a total of $639,700, the largest amount ever interdicted by CBP in Cincinnati. The two shipments came from the same individual in Mexico, though Bell would not release a name.

It is legal to take up to $10,000 out of the United States without declaring the money. For any amount greater than $10,000, however, the traveler or shipper must file a report with the federal government. Bell refused to speculate as to why someone would ship nearly $640,000 in cash from Mexico to Colombia -- and try to hide it while doing so.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Former Serbian Paramilitary Police Pleads Guilty of Immigration Crime

Greg Mathieson / TIME and Life Images(ATLANTA) -- A Lawrenceville, Ga., man who served in the Serbian Police during the 1992-95 Bosnian War pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to lying to federal immigration officials about his background.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit.

Zeljko Zekic, 48, filled out his immigration paperwork saying he was unemployed and living in the Serbian Republic during the war, when in fact he was living in a Serbian-controlled town inside Bosnia and was an active-duty member of the Serbian paramilitary police during the period of armed conflict.

"ICE will not turn a blind eye to perpetrators of crimes against humanity who seek safe haven in the United States," said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta.

In 2002, in Belgrade, Serbia, Zekic and his family applied for refugee access to the United States. On a biographical form that Zekic understood would become part of his family's refugee application, he said he was unemployed and living in the Serbian Republic during the war. His application was approved and his family moved to the United States.

Research by ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit revealed that Zekic had lied about his job and his residence during the Bosnian War.

They discovered that Zekic was a master sergeant with a police force based in a key Serbian-controlled town inside Bosnia, inside the conflict zone. He lived and worked in this town during the entire period of the armed conflict, to include the time of the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in Srebrenica.

Zekic will be sentenced Aug. 16. The crime to which he pled carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal custody and/or a fine of up to $250,000. Zekic is already in removal proceedings before an immigration court.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Officials: Immigration Agents Were Targeted in Mexican Ambush

Jaime Zapata. Photo Courtesy - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(MEXICO CITY) -- Based on the evidence, two U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents were deliberately targeted in a shooting in Mexico Tuesday that left one dead and the other wounded.

U.S. officials say that ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata and a fellow agent were attacked by ten gunmen while traveling between Mexico City and Monterrey.  The car they were driving bore diplomatic license plates.

Zapata, who was part of the ICE Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit as well as the Border Enforcement Security Task Force, suffered fatal wounds, while the other agent is expected to fully recover.

Their armored vehicle was tailed by others, with one vehicle cutting them off in an ambush.

In response to the shooting, believed to be the work of Mexican drug cartels, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Holder said they were creating a task force headed by the FBI to work with the Mexican government in finding the assailants.

Zapata is the first U.S. agent slain in Mexico since a Drug Enforcement Agency officer was murdered in 1985.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Immigration Agent Killed, Other Wounded in Mexico Shooting

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(MEXICO CITY) -- A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was killed and another wounded after they were shot while driving in Mexico Tuesday.

According to U.S. officials, Special Agent Jaime Zapata and another agent, who has not been identified, were driving between Mexico City and Monterrey when unknown assailants opened fire on them.  Zapata was critically injured in the shooting and died from his gunshot wounds, while the other agent was shot in the arm and leg and remains in stable condition.

Both agents were assigned to the ICE Attaché Office in Mexico City.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a statement on the attacks, saying, "Let me be clear: any act of violence against our ICE personnel -- or any DHS personnel -- is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety.  The full resources of our Department are at the disposal of our Mexican partners in this investigation.  We remain committed in our broader support for Mexico’s efforts to combat violence within its borders.

Napolitano added that "U.S. law enforcement agencies are working closely with Mexican authorities who are investigating the shooting to ensure the perpetrators of this unconscionable crime are captured as quickly as possible."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio