A Dallas-based truck driver is in prison in Mexico and facing a possible 35-year sentence because he missed his exit and had no way of turning around without crossing the border.

Jabin Bogan was making deliveries in El Paso before heading on to Arizona when he missed his exit and found himself stuck on the highway leading into Mexico. This is an easy and common mistake to make on the confusing highways of the El Paso area, but it can be a costly one, as Bogan has discovered.

Near the border he says he “asked a cop” how to turn around and was told he would have to continue on a couple of miles to an exit. The details of that part of the story are murky, as U.S. authorities say they have no record of a truck driver making such an inquiry of border agents. They say that had Bogan asked at the U.S. checkpoint, they would have stopped traffic to allow him to make a U-turn on the highway. Instead Bogan crossed the border and was stopped by Mexican authorities who searched the truck and found over a quarter of a million rounds of rifle ammunition.

Headlines in Mexico and the U.S. announced the largest detection and seizure of illegal ammunition in recent memory and strongly suggested that the shipment was destined for Mexican drug cartels. That assertion was quickly denied by both Bogan’s boss and the ammunition dealer in Phoenix, who had paid $100,000 for the shipment.

Dennis Mekenye, operations manager for Demco Freight, says the truck was equipped with a GPS tracker and when he saw it was in Mexico, he called Bogan’s cell phone. The driver told him about the missed exit and that Mexican authorities were searching the truck. Shortly thereafter, Bogan was arrested.

The ammunition dealer in Phoenix, Howard Glaser, says he believes Bogan is a victim of confusing signs – just a hard working man who made a simple mistake. He says the ammunition, 250,000 rounds of military surplus 7.62 NATO and 18,000 rounds of 5.56 NATO, was for commercial sale in the U.S. only and that the suggestion that Bogan was trying to smuggle it into Mexico is ludicrous. He says Mexican authorities should have recognized that an honest mistake had been made and sent the driver and his cargo back to the U.S. and on to Arizona. Bogan is now being held in a federal prison in Veracruz where he has been formally charged with smuggling military ammunition.

Even one round of loose ammunition inadvertently taken into Mexico can be a big problem, and the problem grows when the ammo is of a “military caliber” like the ammo Bogan was hauling. Authorities say Bogan is now facing the possibility of 35 years or more in prison, and the truck, trailer, ammunition and all of the other cargo will be held at least until the matter is fully resolved, probably after Bogan’s trial. Whether the ammunition will ever be returned, even if Bogan is found innocent, is in doubt.

Bogan’s mother and his employer say they are worried for his safety. He was allowed to make one phone call shortly after being incarcerated, but, under Mexican law, is only allotted one call every 3 months. An El Paso attorney has been hired to represent Bogan, and he will hire an attorney in Mexico.

A spokesman for the Mexican prosecutor’s office claimed that the ammunition was the type used in M16s and AK47s and that it was found hidden under pallets in the trucks floor. This claim suggests some communication problems between Mexican law enforcement and prosecutors, as AK47s shoot the Russian 7.62x39mm round, not the NATO 7.62×51 round that comprised the bulk of this shipment.

The suggestion that the ammo was “hidden in the truck’s floor” is also suspect, as such a large quantity of ammunition would occupy several, heavily loaded pallets and weigh more than a car. Since the driver had other deliveries to make before dropping off the ammo, it is likely that there would have been other cargo on or around the ammo pallets, but “hidden” would not be an accurate description.

There is some speculation that the incident is being used for political purposes as Mexico prepares for their July national elections, and the current administration wants to be seen as being effective in their efforts to stop gun and ammo trafficking from the U.S.

The difference in the way Mexico treats U.S. citizens and the way the U.S. treats Mexicans is brought into stark contrast by this case. Perhaps the Mexican authorities are still a little upset about the U.S. government’s Fast and Furious gunwalking program and are taking out their frustration on this truck driver. Sadly, Jabin Bogan is now a pawn in an international political game.

How many guns, again?

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, has alleged that “68 percent” of the guns found at Mexican crime scenes can be traced to the United States. What the report fails to mention is that, just like the earlier “90-percent” lie, the ATF’s percentage comes from suspect sources.

Mexican officials are only likely to submit for tracing those guns that they believe originally came from the U.S.

A significant portion of the drug lords’ arsenal comes from defecting police and military who bring their equipment with them, or are “liberated” from Mexican military stockpiles from the U.S. government, which for decades supplied not only rifles and pistols, but grenades and rocket launchers to governments in Central and South America.

It is telling that until a few years ago the Mexican press routinely published detailed inventories of confiscated guns including the make, model, caliber and serial number. Apparently, some of those numbers proved embarrassing, because in recent years the Mexican press has stopped reporting so diligently.

A friend of ours has compiled a massive collection of press coverage of the border issues for many years. An archive of his summaries, which includes Mexican, American and European press coverage, is available at his blog. Look at some of the earlier reports to see those detailed inventories, and look closely at the pictures of confiscated arms that include grenades and machine guns. It is not the sort of thing that your local sporting goods store stocks.

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