Smugglers Use Catapult to Launch Drugs Into US | NBC Southern California
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Smugglers Use Catapult to Launch Drugs Into US

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the catapult system was used to launch 47 pounds of marijuana from Mexico into the U.S.

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    U.S. Customs and Border Protection
    The catapult (left) was rigged onto a border fence near Douglas, Arizona, and used to launch marijuana from Mexico into the United States. U.S. Border Patrol agents discovered the complex contraption on Feb. 10 and dismantled it (right).

    Drug smuggling attempts by car across the U.S.-Mexico border are a frequent occurrence, but in Arizona one group of smugglers recently got more creative, using a catapult system to launch bundles of drugs over a fence.

    On Feb. 10, border agents in Douglas, Arizona, were patrolling east of the Douglas Port of Entry when they noticed suspicious activity near a fence that separates Mexico from the United States, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. 

    As agents approached the area, several people scurried off. The agents discovered a catapult system rigged onto the south side of the border fence.

    A search of the area revealed that two bundles of marijuana, weighing a combined 47 pounds, had been launched into the U.S.

    Tucson Sector Border Patrol Agent Vicente Paco said the device was “very complex.

    “This is the first mechanism that we’ve found related to systems like this to launch narcotics across the border,” said Paco.

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    Paco said devices used in previous smuggling attempts have included air pressure cannons and trebuchet-type launching mechanisms, but never a catapult quite like this one.

    In 2011, a similar catapult system was captured by National Guard troops using a remote video surveillance system in nearby Naco, Arizona.

    Border Patrol agents seized the marijuana and called Mexican authorities to investigate the contraption. The agents then dismantled it, and the pieces were seized by Mexican authorities.

    Early Wednesday, Paco said no arrests had been made in connection with the catapult and the launching of the marijuana bundles.

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    It is unclear how long the catapult had been on the fence and whether it had previously been used to launch other drugs into the U.S. The investigation is ongoing; Paco said that, for now, agents can only confirm it was used in the Feb. 10 incident.

    Those who spot illegal activity near the borders can call CBP authorities at (877) 872-7435.