Ford sued over duplicate key scheme

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By Sarah Blais By Sarah Blais

DALLAS -- An elaborate smuggling scheme used duplicate keys to stash drugs in the cars of unsuspecting drivers crossing the border.

The operation landed innocent people behind bars, including Ana Martinez, a teacher in El Paso.

"On the day they asked me to open the trunk, I opened it and they found two duffel bags with marijuana inside," said Martinez.

The smugglers targeted professionals and students who made daily trips across the border from Juarez to El Paso.

Martinez was faced with a likely sentence of 15 years for something she didn't do. However, she was released after the FBI uncovered a smuggling ring and at least five other drivers in her situation.

The FBI discovered found that the criminals used VIN numbers to get duplicate keys and stash the drugs in trunks.

One wrongfully convicted university student who spent six months in an El Paso jail is suing Ford Motor Company for allegedly providing the key code giving smugglers access to his trunk.

"Ford requires its dealers to restrict the release of duplicate vehicle keys or key code information to only the registered owner of the vehicle and prohibits the giving or sale of duplicate keys or key code information to third parties without the consent of the registered owner," said Ford in a press release.

It further said that Ford cooperated with the FBI investigation.

The FBI investigation traced the information used to make duplicate keys to a Ford dealership in Dallas, which provides codes to a company used by locksmiths to cut keys. The locksmith on the border took that information and made keys for drug smugglers.

While Martinez is not part of the lawsuit, she still checks the back of her car and trunk daily and every time she crosses the border.