Ivan Granillo
Ivan Granillo outside the Port of Entry in San Ysidro on May 5. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

By 6 a.m. that morning in November 2020, things were already off to a bad start for Ivan Granillo. 

He missed the three alarms that normally wake him up for his early morning weekday shifts at a distribution center in San Diego. He scrambled to leave his home in Tijuana and drove to the San Ysidro Port of Entry to cross into the U.S. 

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But things for Granillo were about to take a turn for the worse. He would never make it to his shift that morning. 

Instead,  customs officials at the border found nearly 100 pounds of methamphetamine sitting in a black duffle bag and two plastic bags in the trunk of Granillo’s car.

He was arrested, questioned and charged with importing a federally controlled substance. If found guilty, he would face a minimum of 20 years in prison because of a previous drug conviction.

Granillo says he had no idea the drugs were ever in his car, and throughout the year long court battle, he claimed what defense attorneys, crime experts and government officials today call the “blind mule” or unknowing courier defense.  

Blind mule smuggling has been a known strategy among Mexican drug traffickers for decades, multiple crime experts told inewsource. Cartels place the drugs in the car of an unsuspecting driver — the courier, typically someone who crosses frequently between the U.S. and Mexico — and then the drugs are picked up on the U.S. side of the border without the driver knowing.

It’s known as the go-to defense — “I didn’t know there were drugs in the car” — for smugglers caught in the act. The government says most people crossing the border with concealed drugs know what they’re doing. 

But defense attorneys contend that the phenomenon happens more often than the government admits. 

And even after years of evidence pointing to the use of blind mules, the U.S. government has taken little action to warn the public about a threat that could affect those who travel in the more than 15 million personal vehicles that cross the San Ysidro Port of Entry annually. 

Read the full article on inewsource.org.

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