Photo: Narco at Border Swap Meets
As the counterfeit merchandise market becomes more lucrative, drug cartels increasingly want a piece of the pie and are charging vendors a tax or quota in order to operate businesses at swap meets and other flea markets near the border.
In the El Paso – Juarez area, the sale of counterfeit items at swap meets and small shops has become the norm. As a result, federal agents raided the Fox Plaza swap meet on Sunday and confiscated more than an estimated $900,000 of counterfeit or pirated goods. The raid, conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, collected more than 7,000 DVDs, more than 10,000 CDs and more than 1,700 miscellaneous items such as sports jerseys, tennis shoes, handbags, etc.
According to Leticia Zamarripa, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, said, “It (the sale of ‘pirate’ CDs and DVDs) has become such a lucrative business that our El Paso HSI agents have information that drug cartels are now investing in this type of crime.”
Allegedly, vendors of these items in the El Paso area are charged a tax or a quota which is then collected by the Barrio Azteca gang. This is the dominant gang in the region and is known to be allied with the Juárez drug cartel, also known as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug organization.
The cartels allegedly associated with the items taken during Sunday’s raid at the Fox Plaza are not being named as the investigation is still ongoing.
A total of 21,308 items were seized that include 10,669 CD’s and close to 2,000 apparel items valued at $648,409.