Mexican Cartels Recruit Smugglers With Newspaper Ads

By Valerie Tejeda 04/12/12

US customs counters by buying its own space in the classified section.

Smugglers wanted. Photo via

Innocent jobseekers in Mexico may find themselves unknowingly drafted into the drug warcartels have begun using the classifieds to advertise openings for house cleaners, cashiers, and security guards. After responding to the ads, the applicants are told to drive cars to the U.S. that areunbeknownst to themloaded with drugs. To counter this threat, the US Immigration and Customs and Enforcement has bought ad space in Mexican newspapers to warn potential applicants about the cartel's schemes. “Why don’t we do the same thing that (cartels are) doing? It’s successful for them. Why wouldn’t it be successful for us?” says Lester Hayes, a group supervisor for ICE in San Diego. Since February of 2011, there have been 39 arrests at San Diego's two border crossingsall connected to the Mexican classifieds. Authorities have unearthed 3,400 pounds of marijuana, 75 pounds of cocaine and 100 pounds of methamphetamine during these arrests. According to Hayes, drivers are usually paid $50 to $200 a driving tripa much smaller sum than the $1,500 to $5,000 that seasoned smugglers are paid. The ads, placed by the ICE in Sunday papers, state in bold letters: “Warning! Drug traffickers are announcing jobs for drivers to go to the United States. Don’t fall victim to this trap.” Victor Clark, Director of Tijuana’s Binational Center for Human Rights, doesn’t believe the ads will do much good unless they specify how to gauge an ad's legitimacy. “It’s very difficult for someone who is unemployed to know whether it’s a trap,” he says. “I don’t think many people are inclined to investigate if they are desperate for work.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.