"[Authorities] do what they can, but because of the terrain, they can't stop the [vast majority of] it," Romero says. "And that's a fact. You'd have to constantly have thousands of guys working this area all the time."

The driver might backtrack to Douglas and let the weed lie low at a stash house; he might circuitously make his way northwest on smaller highways. Or, sometimes, the driver will head through Bisbee on State Route 80 and past a Border Patrol checkpoint near Tombstone. Although this route is through a checkpoint, it's the quickest path to the carotid artery of smuggling, Interstate 10.

The Border Patrol caught the 400 pounds of pot headed to Rodrigo and his uncle's house along SR 80 just days after he and Sergio met with Navigator man for the side deal. Sensing that he was about to get caught, the driver stopped his Dodge Durango north of the Tombstone checkpoint and vanished into the night, leaving the weed behind.

Confiscated wallets and phones that smugglers used to communicate with drivers and lookouts.
Weston Phippen
Confiscated wallets and phones that smugglers used to communicate with drivers and lookouts.
A 20-pound block of pot from the gang's freezer.
Weston Phippen
A 20-pound block of pot from the gang's freezer.

It was on SR 80, as well — although along the eastbound portion that runs through New Mexico — that the Border Patrol busted two of Rodrigo's close friends in 2005. One is Sergio's nephew, the other Rodrigo's high school pal. Rodrigo's pal hadn't been out of school more than a year.

The Border Patrol pulled over the two to perform an "immigration check," and a K-9 dog went crazy. This led to 260 pounds in the trunk of the sedan. Originally, the pair only had been supposed to scout the road ahead and watch for authorities, for which they each were to be paid $800, plus expenses. But when they pulled up to the rally point, the packers stuffed the trunk and told them they'd have to drive on with the product.

Rodrigo can't help feeling responsible, blaming himself for getting his friend involved. His buddy was sentenced to 30 months in prison and four years' supervised release.

Authorities aren't the only ones Rodrigo and the team worry will take their product. In recent years, rip crews, or bajadores, increasingly have preyed upon smuggling units. Rodrigo speaks of these rip crews as subhuman parasites. It's one thing if the authorities intercept a load, because this is written off as a cost of doing business. But if a rip crew steals a load, it's the carrier's responsibility, and he must foot the bill.

This happened to Rodrigo when someone he'd worked with and trusted for years ran off with 200 pounds of product. Rodrigo still owes $70,000 for this misfortune and pays off the debt monthly to Paloma.

There's a code of ethics among most of the criminals who smuggle marijuana into the United States — which is why, when thieves stole from his gang, the normally cool-headed Paloma vowed, "We're going to kidnap those motherfuckers!"

Two men they'd worked with in the past had recommended a man to shuttle a load. As soon as the driver picked it up and drove away, he stopped answering Paloma's phone calls. Thinking it might be a scam perpetrated by the two men who'd recommended the driver, Rodrigo arranged a meeting between himself, Paloma, and the pair to chat on neutral ground: Chandler Fashion Center. They talked in the food court, and as the four walked outside toward the parking lot, two guys hired by Paloma pressed guns against the suspected thieves' backs.

Rodrigo drove as the duo was ushered to the Red Roof Inn near 51st Avenue and McDowell, through the motel's double doors, past the complimentary coffee stand, and down a carpeted hallway into a room.

"We fed them," Rodrigo says. "We were decent."

Paloma and Rodrigo left, and the hired men held the thieves. The kidnappers were local hoods, not professionals. Threatening violence, they insisted that the men were responsible for the lost load and that it better be returned. It never was, but Paloma decided to let the pair survive uninjured, figuring that if they were the thieves, they'd never have the nerve to cross his people again.

"I didn't feel that bad about it because we didn't hurt those guys," Rodrigo says. "It was just something we had to do. It was just part of the business."


Rodrigo is sipping on soup at a family member's apartment on Phoenix's east side when his phone rings. For weeks, he's been waiting for a load, and one has arrived.

The night sky is clear and the moon half-full when Rodrigo pulls up in the quiet neighborhood where he and his family live. His uncle, cousin, and the men who drove the weed from down south shuffle on the driveway beneath the switched-off Christmas lights. The carrier car, loaded with 200 pounds of marijuana, is in the garage.

Normally, Rodrigo would meet the person who brought the weed to Phoenix in a parking lot, take the man's keys, drive the bales himself to Sergio's garage, unload it, and write down the weight of each brick, to the hundredth of a pound, in his notebook. But Rodrigo and his uncle have worked with these men for a long time.

The dope eventually is driven to a stash house in Scottsdale operated by men who move loads east.

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59 comments
don.dodondo
don.dodondo

Just another "hard-working" illegal immigrant who is here trying to improve his life by breaking our laws and sponging off the American tax-payer.

herbalanger
herbalanger

I HAVE BEEN BUYING WEEED AT A HOUSE THATS BEEN SEELING THRU A MAIL SLOTT FOR OVER 17 YEARS.  here is he reason this house is still in opperation, police know cannabis will no kill you, there is not onw recorded case of some one diyng from marijauana use....sure they did do tests on monkeys where the were put in masks and pumped the eqivolent of 700 joints worht of smoke into the monkeys masks... what the us government forgot to think about befor the test, is that all land animals need "OXYGEN"  SOTHEMONKEYS DIDE DUE TOSMOKE ASYPHXIATION..OR LACK OF anyOXYGEN. i dont know bout u but i  breath between hits.... so yeah   U.S.A.you fail

herbalanger
herbalanger

he wasnt distribuing meth amphetamines...it was JUST CANNABIS{shitty cannabis at that.}. this story right here is the EXACT reason  he USA needs to legalize cannabis, just think off all tha cash..pouring into mexicos bloody hands. millions.... it ${ the money} could stay in our {the usa} economy. and the taxes from legal sales of cannabis would be SO HELPFULL TO OUR FAILING SCHOOL DISRICTS, not to mention the cash generated could also help open up more  "hard"drug and alcohol reabilitation centers, which are closing a alarming rates.   MARIJUANA IS SAFE, ITS NOT HEROIN..WAKE UP AND STOP TREATING IT LIKE THAT

serpico1000
serpico1000

I think all these reports only present ONE side of the drug problem in the U.S. what NEEDS to be done is a deeper investigation on the whole drug problem, not only from the illegal contraband, but what those connections are, who finances the move of the drugs in the U.S. where the final destination of those drugs is who is involved, and what the hell the whole bull-shit is all about, BUT THE SILENCE IS SOOO DEAFENING, I would get  involved in all of this shit, but age is not helping!!!

danxranx
danxranx

Heck, for a box of money like that, I'd run drugs too!


www.AnonNet.da.bz

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

It's time to legalize weed. Then, instead of being incarcerated for possession with intent to distribute, you would get nailed for not having a Marijuana Tax Stamp. Federal and state. That would make "sequestration" a thing of the past with so much money going into the federal and state treasuries. Seriously.

markhopkins435
markhopkins435

funny..... getiing pulled over in Arizona on the highway.... frst question I always get as a out of towner...

is it ok to search your vehicle??

AZHighways
AZHighways

Any of you actually grow up in this State?  If so, you already know this "Gang" - or what most would refer to as a Family Business has lasted longer than any of the Businesses or Corporations here that I can remember.  "Lock 'em up" ?  They are probably more ethical & honest than the Law Folks are.  Not defending anyone - just "saying it like it is".

Sedonasherpa
Sedonasherpa

Two places where this illegal weed does NOT bring $500 or $1,000 per pound to the cartel?

Colorado

Washington

robert_graham
robert_graham topcommenter

Click on my handle to see my new profile picture

jackgeddins
jackgeddins

Put the drug user in Jail.   When they get pick by the police, no bail no bond, just strate to jail.

robert_graham
robert_graham topcommenter

WTF, he is a drug dealer and he should have been puleld over.  Enough of your playing the race card.

halldecker
halldecker

a far better distribution procedure than Wal-Mart.   Turning tons of dope into ounces and grams,  collecting,  sending the money South,   we should legalize everything,  then ask them to explain how they do it. 

chucklereader1
chucklereader1

F'n new times, why don't you just write an  f'n corrido for this scum shit.....

genknorr
genknorr

We need to get rid of the scum. They should shoot on site all illeagls

johnglen
johnglen

.. uugghh where to start; poorest of the poor trying to survive, our heaviest gestapo policia from an alphabet soup of agencies preying upon them like the obscene bureaucratic parasite they are, christ BLM rangers now feeding on the drug war too ... the sores on that human being are disgraceful, shame shame shame on the american prohibition ..

sarum
sarum

@serpico1000"If you're caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you're gonna go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life," Warren said. "But evidently if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your bed at night -- every single individual associated with this. And I think that's fundamentally wrong."

Elizabeth Warren is one to watch right now.  CCA prisons full and Federal Reserve happy.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Sedonasherpa  ... utter nonsense.

Colorado is awash in Mexican pot, always has been being due north of Juarez on I-25, joining 1-70.

Some Medical Marijuana Dispensaries even sell Mex as their loss leader to get customers in the store.


Comrade
Comrade

Jaffy, jaffy, who the fuck wants to see Your sorry ass profile. BTW You suposse to be with The POS, DRAMA QUEEN SHURF changing His Diapers, I heard that You were handpicked by Him to be His private Nurse.

fsmith3
fsmith3

@jackgeddins 

Were you socially promoted in high school?  I can't imagine you earned a GED which requires testing.

Comrade
Comrade

JAFFYBOI, WTF!!! areYou "SLOW" You have a serious problen comprehending what You read, the article ckearly states that He was pulled over....RETARD.

azcumsquelcher
azcumsquelcher

@chucklereader1 I think the author secretly wishes he was a Mexican pot mule. Just the way he makes fun of the cops using "gringo spanish" makes me think Weston Phippen sees himself as some ultra-cultured friend of the Hispanohablante. these assholes referenced in the article are no angels, they are criminal scum who belong in prisons in their own countries

Comrade
Comrade

genknorr, then You need to hide BIATCH or run, knowing how chicken U R, You might be an Illegal trying to get sympathy from the Whitey, even Your avatar betrayed You, "KNORR" (Chiken Boullion), BTW take that other BIATCH JAFFY with You, Fng Coocksuckers.

azcumsquelcher
azcumsquelcher

@johnglen Poor Mexicans can get other jobs that don't involve smuggling drugs into our country. I don't know if you knew that, but it seems like you didn't. 

bob_lablaw96
bob_lablaw96

@johnglen Or...you could start by calling them drug dealers, instead of the "poorest of the poor."  Read the article!  They make good money as drug dealers, and are probably here illegally anyway.

Screw them all.  Come here legally, work a righteous job, and become one of us.  Do it this way, and die as animals.

herbalanger
herbalanger

you are only fan of fag joey arpaio cuz ou have never been incarcerated by his hitler wanna be ass.  have ou spent a month in his out door tents????? nope didnt hink so..YOU IDIOT WOULDN BE SO "PRO JOE" IF YOU EVER HAD A CHANCE TO LET HIM RUN YOUR LIFE....GROW UP GETLOCKED UP   AND OPEN YOUR BLINDED EYES TO HEW REAL WORLD. cant wait till mexico kidnaps him

Comrade
Comrade

jackgeddins, OH MY GOD, ARE YOU FNG KIDDING ME?,.... "Me too, Can we start a club"......can we hold hands,........ aaagggghhh! DISGUSTING. I wonder what kind of Club is gonna be; "MISSFIT'S CLUB'?

Comrade
Comrade

JAFFY ROBBYBOI, I told You before, everytime You say: YES, it looks like a biatch beign fuck.

johnglen
johnglen

....  dudettes ... bois ...  pleze .. we're talking about real people & an effing medicinal herb here ... not a natl security issue ... calms the eff down & chill winston ... youre maken us whyte folks look stupid.

reedfox
reedfox

@genknorr Did you mean to say "they're" instead of "there"?  Maybe you should focus more on your grammar and less on illegals.  I'm beginning to wonder if "their" education is better than yours.

sarum
sarum

@azcumsquelcher @johnglen It's not just ganja, its Afghani heroin.   History repeats itself.  Opium Wars was for economic conquest purpose.  Since '70's we know our own government is behind this.  Screaming racism is smokescreen to divert the ignorant.

azcumsquelcher
azcumsquelcher

@johnglen no sir, you are making us white folks look stupid. When crime is exacerbated by these pieces of shit invading our country with drugs, then we have a national security problem. I don't disagree that marijuana is a relatively harmless recreational drug, but I do 100% disagree with your idea that drug smugglers/dealers/thieves and all other hordes of criminals that commit crimes as a result of the smuggling of these drugs are innocent victims in this. You're not helping anyone out by taking the "chill bro, smoke some ganja and stop hatin' on my mexican brothers" approach

fsmith3
fsmith3

@genknorr @fsmith3 @johnglen 

Uh, I seriously doubt that, unless you're taking classes in whatever language you can actually speak.  I expect it's not Hindi or Tagalog, or something like that, because the official language in India and the P.I. is English.  If you got into ASU I expect you've stolen someone's I.D., because I can't imagine that you could pass any sort of even a lower division course. and certainly couldn't deal with an SAT or ACT.

You probably got  the third degree from the cops because you looked like such a low life. That doesn't mean you have three degrees, cretin.

Being a general nuisance isn't a military rank, either.

reedfox
reedfox

@bob_lablaw96

Today class we will learn the word Their.

Their is used as a possessive determiner followed by a noun. For example: their school, their teacher, or their education.

So "there" you have it class.  Be sure to use this word correctly.

Class dismissed.

bob_lablaw96
bob_lablaw96

@reedfox @genknorr "There?"  instead of "their?"

If you intend to school someone one their grammar, have your own grammar down pat.

Comrade
Comrade

JAFFY, "there's nothing ignorant or stupid......" the only ignorant and stupid is Yourself, and a whiner one.

This is You bitching: "But.....but.....He's a drug ddeeeaaalleerr" PUTO.

Comrade
Comrade

genknorr, You must be related to that drunkard Jan brewsky and that merryboi Jaffy same level of illiteracy if You "under stand" what a mean.

reedfox
reedfox

@genknorr "understood" or "under stood"?  Your grammar and spelling are impressive.  I didn't comment on the story, instead I replied to your statement of shooting all illegals. 

robert_graham
robert_graham topcommenter

@genknorr @reedfox There's nothing ignorant or stupid about that we should get rid of the scum. HE'S A DRUG DEALER!!!!

genknorr
genknorr

@reedfox @genknorr shows your ignorance sonny as you under stood but could not reply about the ilegal scum in america.

 

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