Drug Trafficking: U.S. Officials Announced a Scheme Targeting Senior Citizens to be Deceived as Couriers
The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), along with other officials announced a new discovery that a large number of senior citizens had been unknowingly served as drug couriers. On Wednesday, the officials issued a warning in regard to that matter, putting into light the new tactics adopted by drug traffickers.
The Department of Homeland Security revealed the report saying 144 senior citizens had been victims of this new drug trafficking method. In total, the deceived couriers had carried nearly 500 kilograms of drugs across international borders. The average age of the couriers was 59, with the oldest targeted courier being 97 years old. However, the 97-year-old courier's travel was successfully terminated by the authorities.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that the victims were recruited via social media, cyber-begging and telemarketing fraud. The traffickers promised prizes in forms of an inheritance of business opportunity to their victims and set them up to carry illegal drugs unknowingly. The drug traffickers cover their travel fees and expenses then asked the victims to meet with "attorneys" or "business partners" to deliver the disguised drugs.
According to NBC Southern California, the senior targets were asked to take harmless items like chocolates, picture frames, tea, canned goods, soap, or wooden hangers. But apparently the items contain drugs. It is likely that drug traffickers are targeting senior citizens, expecting that they will not arouse suspicions.
In a statement, ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña condemned the traffickers wicked deception towards the victims. "Those who target vulnerable populations, to include our elderly, are among the worst kinds of criminals. Heart-breaking does not begin to describe some of these case details," Saldaña said. She also underlined every citizen's role to prevent more similar cases. "It is the job of a law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice, but it is all of our jobs to teach our own loved ones to be vigilant against these kinds of schemes."
The officials unveiled that the investigation on the drug-smuggling modus of operation targeting senior citizens began in 2013. Ever since the investigators believe that more than 30 victims are still imprisoned for drug trafficking. The New York Times noted that catching the criminals behind the schemes would be very hard because most of them operate outside the U.S. and were highly sophisticated in their operations.
All residents, especially senior citizens, are asked to heed the warnings to prevent more cases and so that no more older adults would fall victim to the deception. Drug traffickers target older adults in hope to not raise suspicions while they unknowingly transport and deliver drugs to other countries.