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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Visalia Woman Convicted of Smuggling Illegal Pesticides

Assistant U. S. Attorney Melanie K. Pierson (619) 546-7976


SAN DIEGO – Selene Barraza of Visalia, California, was convicted by a federal jury yesterday of smuggling illegal pesticides into the United States from Mexico.

The jury found that Barraza smuggled 25 containers of pesticides and fertilizer concealed under the seats of her vehicle into the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on February 26, 2020. The pesticides included 12 bottles of Metaldane and six bottles of Furadan. The active ingredient of Metaldane is methamidophos, and the active ingredient of Furdan is carbofuran. Both methamidophos and carbofuran are cancelled pesticides, which may not be legally imported, sold, distributed or applied in the United States.

According to trial testimony, Barraza purchased the pesticides at a store in Tijuana, where she was told that it was illegal to cross them into the United States but that if the pesticides were discovered, they would simply be seized.  The amount of Metaldane alone purchased by Barraza would have lasted 100 to 200 years if applied to her property, according to the directions on the label.  Barraza told agents she intended to use the pesticides and resell them. Barraza is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw on August 20, 2021.

“These chemicals are banned in the United States because they are toxic and dangerous,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This verdict is an important reminder that there are serious consequences for those who attempt to smuggle illegal pesticides into the U.S. with no regard for public safety.” Grossman praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Pierson, Department of Justice Trial Attorney Stephen Da Ponte and agents with Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division for their excellent work to protect the public.

“The jury’s verdict sends a clear message to individuals that knowingly put people at risk” said Scot Adair, the Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in California. “With our partner agencies, EPA’s job is to protect the American people from highly toxic pesticides like the ones illegally smuggled into this country by the defendant.”

“The jury’s verdict confirms the seriousness of preventing these toxic chemicals from polluting the environment and putting people’s health at risk,” said Cardell T. Morant, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).  “HSI and our partners at Environmental Protection Agency – Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to working together to stop these deadly pesticides from entering the United States.”

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Pierson and DOJ Trial Attorney Stephen DaPonte.


Case Number 20cr1442-DMS

Selene Barraza                                                Age: 34                                   Visalia, CA


Smuggling – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 545

Maximum penalty: 20 years of imprisonment and $250,000 fine


Homeland Security Investigations

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division

Press Release Number: 
Updated May 27, 2021