DOJ seeks $37M from Union Pacific

John O'Brien Mar. 19, 2009, 12:40pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The Federal Government was Union Pacific Railroad Co. to pay more than $37 million in penalties for not stopping drug smugglers on trips from Mexico to the United States.

The Justice Department filed two lawsuits Wednesday against Union Pacific, one in San Diego and the other in Houston. The San Diego suit alleges that on 37 separate occasions in California, Customs and Border Protection found a total of more than 4,000 pounds of marijuana on Union Pacific cars.

The Texas suit says that on June 16, 2003, a manifest indicated there was no cargo on board, but CBP officials found 99 packages containing 117 kilograms of cocaine within a false wall on the bottom side of a rail car.

"It is imperative for transportation providers to be vigilant in determining the nature of cargo they bring into the United States from other countries," said Michael F. Hertz, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Division. "These laws were established to protect the American people."

The Justice Department says the owner or person in charge of a vehicle bound to the U.S. is required to submit a manifest that accurately identifies all merchandise on board.

"We're being punished for drug smuggling from Mexico that we have no ability to prevent," Donna Kush, a spokeswoman for Union Pacific, said in a Los Angeles Times report.

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