Salton City, California - El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents assigned to the Highway 86 checkpoint arrested a man suspected of drug smuggling more than 19 pounds of cocaine hidden in his vehicle’s rear axle transfer case on Wednesday.

The incident occurred at 12 p.m., when Border Patrol agents encountered the man driving a 2005 Acura RL at the checkpoint.

A Border Patrol canine detection team alerted to the vehicle.  Agents referred the driver to secondary for further investigation. 

After an intensive search agents discovered a false compartment located in the rear axle transfer case of the vehicle which is part of a four-wheel-drive drivetrain system.  The compartment contained 13 packages of a white powdery substance that was later determined to be cocaine.

The cocaine had a combined weight of 19.9 pounds with an estimated street value of more than $318,000.

Special Operations Supervisor Veronica Lozano said, “Our detection canine teams play a vital role in protecting our nation’s borders.  I am extremely proud of our canine handlers and the skills and efforts they devote in protecting our neighborhoods.”

The man, a 31-year-old Mexican citizen, the vehicle, and narcotics were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration for further investigation.