Jan. 18, 2008— -- Savvy criminals are using some of the country's most credible logos, including FedEx, Wal-Mart, DirecTV and the U.S. Border Patrol, to create fake trucks to smuggle drugs, money and illegal aliens across the border, according to a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Termed "cloned" vehicles, the report also warns that terrorists could use the same fake trucks to gain access to secure areas with hidden weapons.
The report says criminals have been able to easily obtain the necessary vinyl logo markings and signs for $6,000 or less. Authorities say "cosmetically cloned commercial vehicles are not illegal."
In August 2006, the Texas Department of Public Safety, on a routine traffic stop, found 3,058 pounds of marijuana and 204 kilograms of cocaine in a "cloned" Wal-Mart semi-trailer, driven by a man wearing a Wal-Mart uniform.
In another case, a truck painted with DirecTV and other markings was pulled over in a routine traffic stop in Mississippi and discovered to be carrying 786 pounds of cocaine.
Police said they became suspicious because the truck carried the markings or DirecTV and several of its rivals. An 800 number on the truck's rear to report bad driving referred callers to an adult sex chat line.
Trucks and vans marked as ambulances or law enforcement vehicles create the greatest concern, according to the report.
A fake U.S. Border Patrol van was found to be carrying 31 illegal aliens in Casa Grande, Ariz.
An alert agent recognized that the "H" in the van's serial number is a letter used only on U.S. Border Patrol Jeep Wranglers. It should have been a "P."
"Neither emergency service vehicles nor any government vehicles are exempt from terrorist or other criminal use," the report warns its law enforcement readers.