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Trafficking prescription medications increasingly common

When people are asked to think of drug trafficking, most are likely to conjure images of people smuggling illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamine. The recent trend, however, is for people to transport prescription medications into the U.S. from Mexico, where they are generally much less expensive. This trend has gained attention not only from doctors, but also from Texas law enforcement.

For years, many Texans have crossed the border into Mexico to shop for prescription medications. The reason is simple: many Texans do not have health insurance. Indeed, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 24 percent of Texans go without health insurance, which represents the highest percentage in the U.S. Even though many Texans have purchased plans on the new health care marketplaces, enrollments have barely put a dent in the overall percentage of the uninsured.

In the past, individuals would travel across the border to purchase medications for themselves. As crime has worsened in border cities in Mexico, people in the U.S. are relying more and more on others to pick up and transport their medications across the border. This has law enforcement agencies in Mexico and the U.S. – including the Department of Homeland Security – wondering whether Mexican cartels are now playing a role in the prescription drug market.

Last year, officers in Hidalgo, Texas, raided a flea market right across the border from the Mexican town of Reynosa. They confiscated about 25,000 bottles of antibiotics, steroids and other prescription medicines. Police charged nine people with running the ring responsible for bringing the drugs into the U.S. By some estimates, the operation earned up to $5,000 each day.

Of course, in many cases, those who choose to bring prescription drugs over the border for someone else do so because they see it as an act of mercy. Drugs in Mexico often times cost just a fraction of what they do in the U.S. and many people are simply unable to afford the medications they need. Even efforts to transport drugs for a sick family member, however, can carry serious consequences. The reality is that state and federal law enforcement agencies are on the lookout not only for drugs like marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, but also for prescription medications.

If you are currently facing charges for possession, trafficking or any other drug crime, it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer.