Arizona Attorney General’s Office Warns That Cartels Use Social Media to Recruit Teenagers in Smuggling Operations

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) released a statement Monday warning Arizonans that Mexican cartels recruit American citizens, including teenagers, to smuggle undocumented immigrants into the country through social media.

“Ads on social media intercepted by law enforcement are now offering load drivers up to $2,000 for each passenger picked up at the border and driven north to a specified location. The lucrative deal is not only attracting people as young as 14 years old from the greater Phoenix area but also men and women of all ages and even drivers from out of state, who come to Arizona to cash in on the commute for the cartel. Nearly all of the drivers stopped are U.S. citizens,” according to a press release from the AGO.

“We’re getting about 1,000 smugglers a month coming to Cochise County to pick up the illegals across our border,” said Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, adding, “this has become a cultural norm here in Cochise County.”

Dannels spoke on the AGO’s Attorney General TV about “load cars.” The AGO uses load cars as a name for vehicles used to smuggle undocumented migrants across the border.

Governor Doug Ducey (R) called for social media platforms to crack down on cartel members using the platforms. Ducey wrote a letter to social media giants like Twitter, TikTok, and Meta, asking for their help on this issue.

“Human trafficking and drug trafficking is rampant – with cartels preying on those who seek refuge for a better life, and facilitating the flow of drugs into American communities. And – these criminals are using your companies’ social media platforms to make it happen,” said Ducey.

“Your companies have established reporting mechanisms for criminal behavior, but we need stronger action to prevent this activity that is drawing our young people into a life of crime. Inaction only enables cartels to victimize countless youth and families. This crisis presents a real opportunity for you and your companies to take action and make a difference,” said Ducey, “It’s time for the entire social media industry to put a stop to this activity and prevent the exploitation of our youth.”

Recently, the son of Arizona woman Dora Ortega fell for one of these ads. Ortega’s son was 19 and made $3,400 off two separate trips transporting two illegal immigrants north from Phoenix. He found the gig on Snapchat.

Furthermore, in April, Ducey signed House Bill (HB) 2696, sponsored by State Representative Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City), “which makes clear that an individual who aids illegal human smuggling organizations or operations will be held accountable for their crime,” said Ducey.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and Star News Media. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Image “Load Car Arrests” by AGTV.


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