Diary of a Mad Border Wars Producer


blog post photo

by Nick Stein
Border Wars Series Producer

Tuesday 5/4/10 — Miami Marina
I.C.E. and the Mobile Enforcement Team check out suspicious speedboat, and Peruvian marriage fraud

We spent the day with team leader TERRANCE MANWEILER. We meet at S.A.C headquarters (Special Agent In Charge headquarters)—Day starts with a muster, and briefing assignment for the day is given to the agents by Terry.

We then convoy to the marina—where as soon as we arrive a suspicious boat is observed. 30 foot long and very fast and colorful. Owners of the boat are questioned because of the nature of the boat—the kind of boat they suspect could be involved in smuggling cases.

Owners were let go—there was nothing wrong with the boat.

As we were leaving, the agents saw a suspicious person and questioned him. He was a Peruvian immigrant who seemed to be using marriage fraudulently to stay in the country. He couldn’t spell his wife’s last name. We may do a bed-check follow up to see if he’s living with his wife. He was given a ticket for driving without a drivers license.

Thursday 5/6/10
I.C.E. Gang Suppression Unit
Chasing a Suspect

At around 6pm we traveled to the city of North Miami. We met up with I.C.E. agents that are involved with the Gang Suppresion Unit. They were working in joint operation with the north Miami Police Department. The ICE agent in charge was special agent Yancey. We filmed the muster, in which they were very strong in their advice to the assembled agents and officers about the dangers of the night’s activities and after that we suited up and headed into a very dicey part of North Miami.

We patrolled until one of the officers saw suspicious activity in a strip mall, in particular a suspicious car that seemed to be trying to evade them. They pulled the car over and there were two passengers—one of them tried to hide what turned out to be dime bags of marijuana.

They searched, identified and interrogated about 12 people and took fingerprints and information as they try to suppress gang activity, and get intelligence on an emerging Haitian gang.

We then moved on to another part of town near Washington Square in North Miami. As soon as agents rolled up near to a park—5 individuals fled from them and we gave chase. We did not see the beginnings of the incident. Radio chatter indicated that there was a chase on. We did look for the runners, and we saw one person rush past us and run into the front porch of a house. The agents rushed in on the occupants of the house, pulled guns and threw two haitians to the ground. One turned out to be the home owner—whom the runner said was his friend. The homeowner denied knowing this person at all and seemed quite terrified by the incident. They took care of the runner and processed him by the vehicle. As they tried to fingerprint him—the runner went completely nuts.  His name is Shawn and he was 17 years old—we’ll have to blur his face. He started to yell and scream and resist arrest. Dozens of people started to come up—including his parents and they were quite upset. There was a large scene and the officers had to subdue the minor quickly and get him into the car. Both the officers and the agents felt that we needed to get out of the area immediately, before the situation got out of hand.

They took him back to the station and put him in a cell. We couldn’t pursue it much further because he was a minor but we did get plenty of post-incident interviews with officers including Rocky—who showed us the new electronic fingerprint technology. Meanwhile during all of this Joel was in a Blackhawk helicopter getting night aerials and talking to the agents up in the sky.

Video Preview: “Running from Police” — When police confront a suspected gang member, he takes off running — is his resistance the result of a violent past?

Friday 5/7/10
ICE Chasing Cruise Ship Crews

Today we worked with ICE again. This time we worked with BEST unit (Border Enforcement Security Task forces). The Border Enforcement Security Task force initiative is a series of teams developed as a comprehensive approach to identifying disrupting and dismantling criminal organizations posing significant threats to Border Security.

This BEST team was involved with what’s known as the internal conspiracy beat. Internal conspiracy consists of working different transportation modes like airports or seaports where workers with special access or secure areas are—to make sure they’re not abusing that access. We went to the seaport to the cruise line area. It was there that we put under surveillance disembarking crew members who work on the ships. They had about 6 hours of shore leave. We worked with Jason Donner in one car and special agent Jeff (last name on camera).

We watched these people and would follow persons of interest. We ended up following three different vehicles.   We spoke to, interviewed and patted down about 25 people.

What would happened was we would follow them over the bridge out of the port and pull them over at a CBP checkpoint. A CBP uniformed officer had a checkpoint over the bridge just out of the port where the crew members would be questioned.

The first vehicle was a taxicab that had three people in it. They turned out to be dancers on the boat. They turned out to be hysterical—very funny reactions to their situation. They were let go.

The next one was another taxi with about 7 people in it. They thought it was pretty amusing and then finally the last group—was a van with about 15—20 people in it. They too were let go.

The main thing with this story is not that we got a big bust, but that this is just a whole other area in which ICE must do their duties because it’s a vulnerable area. The ability of the people on these cruise ships to go from port to port where they could do some nefarious things. They would then be a position to do a lot of smuggling, and be paid to do so.

Saturday 5/8/10 — I.C.E. — MET team, Marina work.
Boat Argument, Impounded Makko and Illegal Honduran.

We are once again working with the ICE Mobile Enforcement Team. We are with Terry and his gang, and were working at Marina’s again today. Today we were at Haul Over Marina but we also had a boat with us from Indian Creek PD and a great officer named Jeremy. We had one EX-3 camera on the water and we were on land with Varicam.

Our first encounter was with a young Cuban-American used car salesman. He turned out to be clean, and very entertaining in our interview. The next event of the day turned out to be with some more Cuban Americans in a different part of the marina. We suspected that they had stolen outboard engines, on a large fast boat. They got very upset with the agents and the police officer—a rather heated argument ensued. Our young ICE Special Agent Jason was also involved.

The owner (and father of 2 boys) did not appreciate the insinuation that his boat was dirty. It turned out the missing serial numbers from the boat engine were painted over. When the North Miami PD showed up, they tore the cowling off the engine and found the missing serial number. Jeremy warps up the action for us. As it turned out, this boat had been dirty as it had been stolen from the owners, and it was recovered a few days later. It also turned out one engine did NOT have a serial number (the other did) but they let them go because the boat had been stolen and out of their possession for a couple of days.

We then moved to another marina where we’ve found what appears to be stolen engines on a big Makko boat with the name “Hooked Up 1”. The officers are seizing that boat because it has fake (counterfeit) serial number stickers on it. Our new friend (a police officer from North Miami PD) who is a real expert on boats and maritime crime explained (after Jeremy did) what was going on with this tiny sticker that was obviously (to their eyes) fake. They did not let us get a CU on it for security reasons. The suspects (about 5 guys) wanted nothing to do with us but we did see the tow truck come and haul the boat away. It turned out that the men with the boat also had a loaded gun and the officers took the magazine and ammo from them.

Then we came across a Honduran taken off a boat in the marina (we missed the top of this story). He had fake forged ID, and he is being fingerprinted. It appears he’s been in the country illegally for at least 7 years. Fingerprints are run and it comes back that he had prior arrests for DUI’s in Pasadena California. We see him taken away in a squad car.

Wednesday 5/12/10 — TACLET training
(Vessel Combat Strategy)

We had two different stories today—one was about a group of the Coast Guard called TACLET. They are a deployable law enforcement team consisting of law enforcement detachments based out of a coast guard air station in Miami. Their primary mission is counter-drug law enforcement. They continually deployed teams to the Caribbean, pacific and Persian gulf with deployments lasting 45 to 90 days. At a minimum, each member can expect to be deployed 185 days of the year usually on Navy ships. TACLET uses a variety of tactics, such as unannounced nighttime boardings. Unannounced nighttime boardings are conducted without giving the captain or crew any notice at all. That’s the definition.

What we saw was a training session that was being held in an abandoned building on a campus of a hospital. We talked with the head trainer (name is on tape). He belonged to an organization called CACI. This is a company contracted by the US government to train these TACLET forces. The trainer was a former police officer and navy seal. He was a very good talker, and was the main voice of this exercise.

We watched them muster up and then go through two exercises. The first one was called “the room of chaos and confusion” in which they use role playing to simulate boarding a ship and going room to room—where their peers are packed into rooms in civilian clothing. Upon entering, chaos breaks out—people speak different languages. TACLET tries to understand who is in the room and their intentions. Who is friendly and who wants to kill them… crew…etc. They have to take control of the situation by getting them to the ground and handcuffing and extracting them one at a time for interviewing.

The second exercise was simulating the hallway of a vessel. A “crewmember” pops out of a room and they have to figure out how to get past this person and subdue them as they’re trying to make progress toward the target. We went through both these exercises and went through follow up interviews at the end and we use these exercises in a way to show that the US Coast Guard works with Law Enforcement, and that we’ll see a Law Enforcement segment in this production window—and this can be used as set up for that. TACLET South’s hard work and training have paid big dividends including a unit, record-breaking 90,000 pounds of cocaine seized in 14 drug interdictions during 2006 with 93 suspected drug traffickers detained. They work off of Naval boats and this allows the Navy and the Department of Defense to get involved in the war on drugs.

Video Preview: “Fishing for Narcotics” — Agents seize a boat holding over a ton of cocaine — but will Panama release the boat to US custody?

Wednesday 5/12/10 – The Honduran Fugitive Story
ICE DRO of Lost Honduran

After we moved on from TACLET, we went on to meet with I.C.E. detention and removal unit. This is a continuation of a story that went on Wednesday May 5th  where we mustered up before dawn and at that muster we learned that the person in question had changed locations and at 3:30 in the morning his car was not there—so at the time it was a bust. The ICE team did not quit, and they found out where he was—resulting in our ability to re-enter the chase. We ended up in Pembroke Florida on university Ave. There were agent from Detention and Removal Office who had this Honduran alien criminal fugitive under surveillance. He was in a white pickup with a rack on the top and was at this point working in construction. We entered with an agent Louise and we ended up chasing this guy. The fugitve was lost, and was doing u-turns and asking for directions. All the shooting is out of our vehicle so we’ve got lots of radio chatter—shots of the suspect’s car and ICE vehicles until finally he stops at the construction site. We re-muster, put on our vests, make a plan and then arrest the guy right in front of the house he’s working on. We take him down and cuff him—then do all kinds of post-arrest interviews.

Joe, another agent and great character in this, enters the scene and then we convoy the the chrome detention center—where the Honduran is processed.

We watch the suspect getting fingerprinted and interviewed by Joe Hedmann. We interviewed another officer there—Officer Acosta with I.C.E. We got permission to speak with the suspect. We interviewed the suspect about his life and his past. We spoke about his struggles—he’s been in the country for over 20 years. He came as a tourist and overstayed his visa and was homeless—ran with a bad crowd. Rap sheet is long.

Getting lost on the highways, took two shoots to find him—good story!

Wednesday 5/19/10

Mobile Enforcement Team — ICE

We worked again with Terry Manweiller with MET team of ICE. We went to Key Largo and set up to watch north and southbound boats. It was a bust for the most part—we pulled over a few and all were clean. We interviewed a few of the owners. This can go into a montage of different things that the MET team did. All of these stories can be given to one writer to put into one show to show how they work over a series of days.

Monday 5/24/10
CBP International Mail Center and Hatian Orphan pickups

The first thing we did was we went back to the CBP International Mail Center. Its at an undisclosed location in Miami. We went back to do a pickup on the two officers that were in involved in the cocaine fish story. To our great satisfaction, we were there when they found marijuana in a strange looking wooden device.

We watched the dog hit on it, we watched it go through the x-ray and then we watched them open and reveal it. All of this can go into the cocaine fish story, as the first beat of that story. The two officers are slated on camera.

We interviewed the officers extensively.

We then went to the airport and did a pick up for the Haitian Orphan story. We met with an OFO officer Jimmy. We watched as he supervised other officers, did a walk and talk. He did a piece we can use just before the Haitian Orphan story explaining that a plane has just come in…

We did two outbound cash operations, a Cuban outbound plane and a Panamanian outbound plane. We had some interesting moments, but no one was arrested. All of the ATSET outbound stories could be combined to show the effort in this area.

We did B-Roll of the area, and great shots of airplanes taking off and landing.

Wednesday 5/26/10
North Miami Beach

We did some drive by B-Roll in a very dangerous neighborhood, where we did the gang suppression story on May 6th. We got pickups for that story. The way I see it working is—we shot the neighborhood and the basketball court the and store the suspects ran from. We can open the story with a sense of this place, go into the muster and then go into the night.

So this way we will have a sense of geography, and a sense of the type of place, the environment where this took place.  We included both sides of the story—where we detained a number of people at a strip mall, and also where the kids ran from us.

We went to the beach and tried to do some weather shots—changing weather from good to bad.

We then went out to the Homestead with the Air and Marine air branch. We interviewed two of these officers about the controlled delivery story. Alex Rodriguez, and Tony G. This needs to be screened very carefully and used as a narrative throughout. They talked about what they did, how they felt, the techniques…etc.

We then went up in a Blackhawk with pilot Bill Laurie and did a mission over the ocean. First we flew past the hotel and Joel shot the Blackhawk from the hotel. We got the Blackhawk coming right at the camera and then we went out and inspected some boats. We talked about the mission, did some more flying and called it a day.

Don’t miss all-new Border Wars “3,000 Pound Coke Bust” premiering November 10th at 9P et/pt.




  1. David Yates
    Wyoming, USA
    April 17, 2012, 2:19 am

    Border Wars seems very anti-American! We want people from other countries to want to come here right? It was just one racial profiling case after another. One would guess that other nations would see this and stop doing business with America! What the heck man! I like going to Mexico once in a while but with the way they are being treated, I fear they may treat Americans the same way we treat them!