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A Yuma woman with “trusted traveler” status was arrested Wednesday for attempting to smuggle more than $141,000 worth of cocaine into the country.
According to U.S. Custom and Border Protection spokesman Officer Reginald Smith, Maria Valle, 46, was arrested at the U.S. Port of Entry at San Luis, Ariz., after officers found six packages of cocaine, weighing 15.5 pounds, hidden in her vehicle.
Valle was a member of the agency's Secure Electronic Network for Traveler's Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) program and was attempting to drive through one of the dedicated lanes when she was caught. Her card was immediately revoked.
“SENTRI members are treated with a higher level of trust, but are not exempt from inspection,” said Acting Port Director Robert L. Schroeder. “Violations such as drug smuggling will not be tolerated, and those attempting to exploit the program will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Smith said when Valle applied for entry into the U.S., she was driving a Mazda sedan with her two-year-old granddaughter as a passenger. A narcotic detection dog, however, alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle.
Officers then conducted a secondary inspection, Smith said, and found cocaine packages in Valle's purse and a diaper bag.
Valle, her vehicle, and the cocaine were turned over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. The toddler was returned to a family member.