Jan. 19, 2008, 9:46AM
A trafficker's vehicle of choice
Cartels swipe rugged Ford F-250s, F-350s in state for smuggling drugs and humans
By JAMES PINKERTON
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Houston entrepreneur Bill Christmann was shocked when thieves stole his souped-up black Ford F-250 pickup from his west Houston driveway one night last July.
But shock turned to concern the next day after Christmann learned thieves had driven the 2001, heavy-duty, four-wheel drive truck to Laredo, loaded it with illegal immigrants and drove it back from the border, roaring off-road through fenced ranch pastures.
Police chased the truck south of San Antonio before the smugglers crashed the vehicle into a tree. The smugglers escaped, and the immigrants fled.
''That is a little scary, being that close to home," said Christmann, referring to criminals linked to smuggling rings showing up in his driveway.
Christmann is among hundreds of Houstonians who purchased one of Ford's two popular and expensive pickup models — the Super Duty F-250 and Super Duty F-350 — and have since learned that their rugged trucks are increasingly favored by gangs of auto thieves.
Many of the trucks, police officials in Houston and border towns say, are being stolen for Mexican criminal cartels who use them as vehicles for narcotics and human trafficking.
In 2006, thieves made off with 888 of the F-250s and F-350s from locations in Houston, according to Lt. Scott Dombrowski, of the Houston Police Department's auto theft division.
In 2007, he said, thefts of the same models increased 40 percent, to 1,245.
During the same two-year period, police say, the overall number of vehicle thefts in the city fell slightly.
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Rita - 2005 - The sounds that I did not know my house could make & the roar
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Ike - 2008 - A long blow
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