Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The new special agent in charge of San Diego and Imperial Counties may be new to the job, but he's no stranger to the region.
Derek Benner, 40, said he's excited to be back in San Diego. After all, it was at the San Ysidro checkpoint where he started his career.
The former customs inspector was recently named the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agent in charge of investigations in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
"The changes are remarkable," Benner said of the activity at the border since he used to work as an inspector in the 1990s.
To illustrate his point, he highlighted a recent case in which officers busted smugglers who were trying to take bulk shipments of hydrocodone into Mexico to sell them to Tijuana pharmacies.
"This was an interesting investigation where we partnered with the state of California and Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement to take down this operation," he said.
In fact, it is partnerships like these which he said are crucial to fighting criminal border activity. At a time when everyone is being stretched thin, he said this is a way to continue fulfilling the mission of the agency.
"We have a responsibility to taxpayers to manage our resources in an efficient and smart way to get the most impact possible from what we do have," Benner said.
ICE is in charge of investigating everything from illegal border tunnels to the hiring of illegal workers, human smuggling and trafficking.
Benner started to oversee more than 500 employees at one of the largest ICE offices in the country earlier this month. His predecessor, Mike Unzueta, was reassigned.