California women smuggled $2.5 million in cash across border, Mexican authorities say

Bundles of cash wrapped in plastic seized at the border from two women crossing into Tijuana, according to Mexican officials.
About $2.5 million in cash wrapped in plastic was seized at the border from two women crossing into Tijuana, according to Mexican officials.
(Agencia Fronteriza de Noticias)

Two California women were arrested as they attempted to cross the border from San Ysidro to Tijuana on Saturday with approximately $2.5 million in cash hidden in their car, Mexican authorities said.

The women tried to smuggle the cash across the border in an SUV with California license plates about 10 p.m. Saturday, authorities said Monday. Their names were not released.

Mexican border agents sent the pair to a secondary inspection after they went through the “nothing to declare” lane. The cash was discovered during a search of the vehicle, according to Isaías Bertín Sandoval, Baja California’s secretary of federal public safety.

Mexican law requires people crossing the border with more than $10,000 in cash to declare the amount to authorities.

An investigation of the “historic cash seizure” was continuing, federal authorities said.


The news organization Agencia Fronteriza de Noticias first reported the seizure. It said 13 packages of cash were initially discovered in the women’s suitcases. Then a search of the vehicle revealed 87 more packages concealed throughout the SUV — all in U.S. currency.

Cecilia Farfán-Méndez, the head of security research programs at the Center for U.S.-Mexican studies at UC San Diego, said the seizure was an indication that the cross-border drug trafficking business was thriving amid the coronavirus pandemic, and she speculated that Mexican authorities may have been tipped off by their U.S. counterparts.

“Either you have the worst possible luck in the world, or there was some info coming from the U.S. that ‘Hey, this car may have bulk cash in it,’” said Farfán-Méndez.

In January, Mexican authorities seized $500,000 in cash from a woman as she crossed into Tijuana through the Otay Port of Entry.

In the Mexican justice system, authorities do not release the full names of suspects or defendants in criminal trials. Their last names are disclosed only if they are convicted of a crime.

Fry writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.