About half an hour later, a silver Volkswagon Passat arrived. When the driver popped the trunk, the men walked up, grabbed something from inside, and started running north toward the border. Three guys managed to get away, but Sergio Rodriguez-Pacheco was less fortunate. Border Patrol agents found him hunkered down in the brush, with a backpack 30 feet away containing "13 kilogram-sized bricks" of cocaine.
The feds eventually chased down the Passat, and, although a drug-sniffing dog "alerted to the scent of narcotics," the driver, Domingo Villalobos-Rosas had already jettisoned his cargo. According to court documents, he admitted to investigators that he was offered a job taking drugs to the border. He claimed somebody took his car and returned it a few hours later with instructions to drive through the berry fields, park near the tree line, and use the emergency break to stop so that his brake lights wouldn't give him away.
As for Rodrigeuz-Pacheco, he allegedly confessed that he knew he was smuggling drugs, but had no idea what kind. He and his three buddies were reportedly told to take the bags, run across the border, and deliver them to a safe house. For this relatively simple task, he would earn $4,000 cash.
To put that figure in perspective, according to a recent New York Times Magazine story on the economics of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, the wholesale price for a kilo of cocaine in Colombia or Peru is about $2,000. In Mexico, that kilo costs more than $10,000. In the U.S., it sells for around $30,000 (though slightly less in the Seattle area), or upward of $100,000 when broken down into grams for street-level transactions.
Assuming the cost per kilo in Canada is in the $30,000 range, Rodriguez-Pacheco stood to collect a relatively sizable
13 percent one percent* handling fee for his backpack-carrying services. Of course, he is now in federal custody, charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and unable to collect his payment. His anonymous bosses, meanwhile, saw a 75 percent success rate on transporting this particular shipment into Canada, since Rodriguez-Pacheco's three partners managed to elude the Border Patrol and slip off into the night.
As for the driver, Villalobos-Rosas, according to court documents he declined to divulge to the feds exactly how much he stood to earn for loaning out his car and opening the trunk, but he noted "it was enough to make him happy."
*As one astute reader noticed, we initially miscalculated the percentage pocketed by the smuggler. While $4,000 per $30,000 kilo amounts to 13 percent, $4,000 for 15 kilos -- worth $450,000 wholesale -- is a slightly more modest one percent take.