MARCH 19, 2009
The nation’s largest railroad company is being sued by the U.S. government for smuggling huge quantities of drugs into the country from Mexico and repeatedly lying about it to customs inspectors.
Union Pacific Railroad Co. has transported more than two tons of marijuana and over 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, according to federal prosecutors, who say the rail cars were usually listed as empty on customs manifests. Routine cargo border inspections later discovered the narcotics in the “empty” rail cars.
Examples include 99 packages containing 117 kilograms of cocaine in a false wall of a rail car, 61 kilograms of marijuana found in the spine of another and 29 kilograms of marijuana in a hidden compartment of a flat-bed car. Prosecutors say that, on at least 37 occasions between 2001 and 2006, Union Pacific rail cars contained marijuana or cocaine as they entered border crossings in Texas and California.
The government is suing the Omaha Nebraska-based company for $37 million in penalties for not accurately identifying all merchandise on board its vehicles. The feds cite a U.S. Code requiring the owner or person in charge of a vehicle bound to the United States to submit a manifest that accurately identifies all merchandise to border officials. This makes the company liable for the illegal drugs that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found on its rail cars.
Union Pacific claims it has no control over the trains when they are in Mexico and therefore the company is being held responsible for drug smuggling that it has no ability to prevent. An interesting side note is that Union Pacific has an ownership stake in the Mexican railroad company, Ferromex, which operates the cars when they are south of the border.
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