Border Wars exposes new face of drug smugglers


by Sybil Hoffman

Posted on September 23, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 24 at 7:51 PM

NOGALES, Ariz. – When you think of an elderly woman, you probably don’t think of a drug runner.

But this weekend, National Geographic’s hit reality series “Border Wars’ is putting a face on the drug war showing who is being used more and more by cartels to smuggle drugs across the border.

Officers became suspicious of a 76-year-old woman which paid off.

They discovered approximately $120,000 worth of cocaine taped to her thighs. Nick Stein, the series producer, says, "Now this is not unusual. We've seen 12, 13, 14-year-old children with narcotics strapped to their bodies."

3TV recently spent time in Nogales to meet with the National Geographic crew. They spend five to six weeks taping several episodes for the series.

Stein says putting a face on smugglers shows cases a level of desperation never before seen on television.

"I mean there is a lot of money around and anybody can get involved, particularly if they're in desperate economic straits. They are not hard-core criminal element people making their way up through the hierarchy of the cartel.
That's not who they are," Stein says.

In the upcoming episode of Border Wars you get the sense there is a recent rash of elderly drug runners.

As Stein says, "People don't grow up in Mexico wishing to end up in the drug cartels, many of them are forced into this thing, and this is the thing that people don't get."

This is Stein’s third trip to Nogales. He believes his role is to make the show even more edgy by exploring illegal immigration.

"I've heard terrible things, we should shoot people that come across, they should build a fence that goes for 2,000 miles, they should deport 12 million people, well you know, it's easy to say those things, but when you live the life down here, both as a border wars film crew and as a CPS or DHS person, you know those things are not going to happen, you have to find other ways and that's what I hope the show does. We have to evolve into a place that shows complexity, hoping to add to the debate in a thoughtful way."

While the debate over what to do at the border will no doubt continue, there is no debate over what lies ahead for this drug running grandmother.

Stein says, "Your heart goes out to them because if you smuggle cocaine into the United States you're going to jail for a long time. As a matter of fact, I would not be surprised if that woman dies in jail."

To watch this episode of Border Wars, tune into the National Geographic Channel Sunday, September 25 at 10 p.m.