During my tenure with the U.S. Treasury Department, I have come across some very interesting problems with the information systems that we all had access to in the performance of our official duties.
Sometimes there was a problem with information sharing with other sister agencies like DEA or U.S. Immigration and so forth. I mean that DEA-NADDIS records weren't linked to our T.E.C.S. systems unless someone "ordered" it. You would think that if we are trying to accomplish the same goals, there would be a "Hit" activated whenever a certain narcotics/felony suspect would enter into the country via POV,Commercial vehicle,bus, plane, pedestrian, etc..?
Only for the most extreme cases are sensitive information necessarily "shared" between interdiction agencies. Like the "Narco-Terrorists" and other extreme dangerous factions that would cause "officer safety" situations.
I remember a certain incident on or about 2-20-91, when I made the initial contact at the Otay Mesa Customs primary lane with a suspect named Trevor Whittingham, DOB:073149. He was accompanied by a younger female named Ruth Mejic DOB:083172. Whittingham was driving a rental vehicle out of Los Angeles Airport after flying from New York to California. They then drove to San Diego.
Both driver and passenger had allegedly made a "Brief" trip across the border into Tijuana/Otay Mexico in the evening and they only spent about an hour after driving all the way from Los Angeles to "visit". Believe me, Whittingham didn't offer that information. I had to interview him to get it. I then asked for identification from both he and his passenger Ruth Mejic. The Driver, Whittingham, opened his wallet and "exposed" a fake DEA/N.Y.P.D. Detective's badge. I asked him if he had any identification to go with the badge and he did not. He further tried to get out of his showing it to me by saying that a friend gave it to him or that he collected them. (I collect badges, and he didn't know how to explain anything further) I think that Whittingham knew exactly what he was doing and tried this technique and "lost".
After obtaining some sort of drivers licenses and identification, I sent both into vehicle secondary for an intensive search. This was a couple of hours before we closed at 10:00 P.M. Some smugglers know about the time frames and try to get a lazy or tired inspector urgently ready to go home at the end of shift. I also requested a K-9 and patdown, and INS of the passenger because of the slight accents I heard. They weren't New York accents, O.K.? Maybe Jamaican.
A subsequent K-9 of the vehicle resulted in a "hit" on the Kotex box in a small baggage in the trunk, and some "interest" on the female passenger's car seat. This particular K-9 dog that was used, was the same dog that was present the night before the famous Hidro Tanker incident on or about October 4, 1990. This was now only a couple of of months later since it was now approximately 2-20-91, just a couple of months after the Tanker seizure of over 8,000 lbs. of cocaine.
Subsequently, I was relieved off of the primary lane within about five minutes and I had occasion to run into Whittingham and Mejic coming out of the INS office and cleared "without" a Customs inspection. Obviously, someone else decided "not" to run the names in the computer and let it go without my particular requests.
As I greeted them as they were approaching their "rental car", I decided to take them inside after I saw that there was only one small overnight bag but no other belongings in the vehicle or trunk except for one lonely opened Kotex Box, I took both persons in for a more intensive search. I conducted a patdown on the male while a female inspector did the same for the female. The patdown was negative. The man was carrying over $6,195.00 cash. The Fake DEA/NYPD badge was "voluntarily" abandoned on a Customs Form 4607.
With all of the above mentioned facts and circumstances, I was denied the permission for a "partial" strip search on the female passenger. She was more nervous and scared during "patdown". I remembered a similar incident at Calexico when I was stationed there, and another female passenger was "carrying" a small package containing cocaine secreted within her body cavity. There was resistance and they "talked" their way out of a strip search by intimidating the Customs Supervisor as well.This female actually fought the female inspector during the patdown and a hard lower stomach was revealed according to the female Customs Inspector (Subsequently the female suspect at Calexico did get caught a month later near San Luis, Arizona. )
Anyway, since I was finishing up and couldn't find anything, I made sure the names were run in the Customs T.E.C.S. computer system. The results were negative. I couldn't believe this, but I had to release them in spite of the Customs Supervisor that was present at the time. I decided that I couldn't let that one go. So, the very next day, I called my friends at DEA for a NADDIS record through the guys at EPIC(El Paso Intelligence Center) I found out that Trevor Whittingham had an "extensive" record for heroin and "dealing" out of New York. I then wrote and submitted an M.O.I.R Intelligence report and submitted it through channels and send it out over the computer system with the appropriate "distribution codes" and everything. That way Trevor would be monitored and get searched somewhere else every time he or the passenger went on travel.
I could have had a great narcotics seizure if it weren't for the Customs Supervisor and the additional "missing" intelligence data. Don't you think there would have been even more reason for a "strip" search knowing that Whittingham was into heroin and dealing??? This is not the only time I have personally been "refused" proper permission to get a "strip" or "cavity" search on particular individuals with all of the articulateable facts. It was getting very frustrating to work with most Customs Supervisors because of their "arrogant" and uneducated lack of support for those of us who were more "qualified" to do the job.
It seemed that absent the heroin track marks on another female I wanted to have searched for a body cavity load, the Customs Supervisor still released her even though she was shaking like a leaf and had her track marks covered up with a one piece dress that was very tight around the forearms. That female tried to cover herself in front with a new Mexican blanket that she obtained from someone to help cover her arms as she was processed through pedestrian at San Ysidro.
I will continue later with another story about the computer systems and the technical problems we have and the suggestions I have made to improve the systems to help us interdict more contraband.
So much for many years of experience and training.