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Douglas woman arrested at Port of Entry

Tucson.- A Douglas woman arrested this week with nearly $110,000 of marijuana in her vehicle told federal authorities she smuggled drugs to protect her family. Alicia L. Noperi, 34, was taken into custody Tuesday evening after driving into the U.S. from Mexico at the Douglas Port of Entry (POE).

Her husband is a municipal police officer in Agua Prieta, Sonora across from Douglas. 

 According to a criminal complaint filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Hakala, “Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers referred the vehicle for secondary inspection after they observed packages wrapped in brown packing tape concealed throughout the vehicle.”

 During the inspection, a CBP canine alerted his partner to a 2003 Nissan Murano registered to Noperi. X-rays exposed “anomalies throughout the vehicle,” the complaint said. A physical search revealed 196 wrapped packages that tested as marijuana. Noperi was arrested on charges of possession of 220 pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute. She was the sole occupant of the vehicle. “Noperi claimed her family would be harmed if she did not smuggle the marijuana into the U.S.,” notes the complaint. 

She also claimed she wasn’t being paid for her efforts. In her statement to authorities, Noperi said she was forced to pull over three months ago by men in a pickup after she came through the POE from a visit to Mexico. According to the statement, two men lifted her vehicle with a car jack and removed a package from underneath.

While that was happening, a third man handed Noperi a phone and said they would be in contact. “Noperi said the subject told her if she helped them out, they would help her out,” the complaint reads. But Noperi claimed she didn’t turn on the phone until the same men approached her again. According to the complaint, “Noperi said the men told her they know where she lives, where her husband lives, and where her parents and son live in the U.S. and that she needed to answer the phone for their well-being.” 

 A week ago, Noperi received a call instructing her to go to Agua Prieta, Sonora where she was left in a hotel room for three hours while the men took her car. She later came back into the U.S. but the complaint is unclear on whether drugs were smuggled across. This week, Noperi received a call telling her to drive to the same Agua Prieta hotel.

She told investigators the men had her car for about four hours after which she headed to the U.S. where she expected to get further instructions. Instead, she was arrested at the POE. Noperi was released on her own recognizance Wednesday during an initial appearance at the U.S. District Court in Tucson. 

She is prohibited from traveling outside Arizona without prior court approval and must surrender any passport or visa documents by Dec. 25.

 http://www.douglasdispatch.com/news/douglas-woman-arrested-at-port-of-entry/article_b656c47e-e1b2-11e7-b81c-f31351886e3e.html
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