Ford Sued Over Drug Mule Case
A University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) student filed suit against the Ford Motor Company claiming that the automaker’s widely accessible key cut codes allowed smugglers to plant drugs in his vehicle in 2010. Court documents claim that a locksmith informed federal agents that Ford routinely gave out information about Ford-key cut codes, a practice not followed by General Motors. Four out of five vehicles targeted in the scheme were Fords. Student’s Nightmare Ricardo Magallanes lived in Juarez, Mexico, but worked in El Paso, attending UTEP as a music student. On November 16, 2010, police arrested Magallanes as he crossed the Stanton Street Bridge when customs agents found 112 pounds of marijuana in his trunk. The student spent six months in jail before his trial, and after his conviction, faced more than three-and-a-half years in prison before charges were suddenly dropped. Key Code Controversy In 2011, federal authorities arrested Jesus Chavez and Carlos Albert Gomez when they discovered a scheme to plant marijuana in people like Magallanes who lived in Mexico but worked or attended school in El Paso. An investigation found that codes accessed through the Ford database in the scheme were through a single account at a Dallas auto dealer. The dealer gave out more than 2,300 codes during an 18-month period, but it is unclear if that is suspicious. Because of the case against Chavez and Gomez, US Senior District Judge David Briones told lawyers he was uncomfortable with the conviction against Magallanes, and prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the case in June 2011. Multiple Instances The Magallanes case calls into question many of what have been labeled “bridge cases,” where officers on El Paso’s international bridges often arrest drug smugglers as they try to enter the country. In several cases, victims reported strange duffel bags in the trunks of their vehicles, and, in one case a doctor was held briefly when the duffel bags were found to contain marijuana. A fourth grade teacher was held for more than three months when authorities found marijuana in the trunk of her Ford Focus. Ford claims that they are not responsible for the arrests and detention of these victims, instead putting the blame on the locksmith who made the keys, the person who accessed the Ford database fraudulently, as well as Gomez and Chavez who placed the marijuana in the trunks of unsuspecting citizens. When carelessness is suspected as the contributing factor in an incident that results in false imprisonment, a negligence lawsuit may be in order. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation regarding negligence where injuries may have been cuaed by the carelessness of others.