By now you may have heard of the landmark federal conviction of Alfred Anaya, who played a key role in a drug trafficking ring that moved product from Mexico to the Midwest. What makes Anaya’s downfall so interesting is that fact that, by the government’s own admission, he never touched any drugs himself; his role was that of a master engineer, in charge of building secret compartments in the vehicles the operation used to transport its contraband.
The Feds have long been keen to bust men like Anaya, an effort complicated by the fact that there is no specific statute that bans the building of secret compartments. Anaya was tripped up by a series of wiretaps which revealed his knowledge of how the compartments would be used. Those wiretaps also hint at just how valuable Anaya’s services were to the organization:
Using wiretaps issued in another investigation, authorities intercepted calls involving known drug traffickers in which they discussed having hidden automobile compartments or “traps” built for them by defendant. References to detection by customs officials and the use of x-ray-interfering carbon paper and mirror-like surfaces provide evidence that the traps were intended for illegal drug-trafficking purposes. Other intercepted calls related to the possibility of defendant’s traveling to Mexico to fix a compartment that would not open.
In other words, Anaya’s skillset was so respected by his paymasters that they were willing to get him down to Mexico to open a single compartment, rather than hiring local talent to solve the problem. That’s a testament to the sophistication of Anaya’s work, and a clue as to why federal prosecutors considered him such a grand prize.
I plan on drilling deeper into the court documents to get a better sense of Anaya’s precise methods for creating world-beating traps. Amazing to me that something as simple as carbon paper could be so essential to foiling the zillion-dollar detection systems employed by Border Patrol agents.