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Prosecutors Seeking Longer Sentences For Arizona Drug Lookouts

Prosecutors have begun seeking stiffer sentences for people who work as lookouts for drug smugglers in southern Arizona.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that border patrol agents are now tracking the number and size of marijuana seizures made in the line of sight of these lookouts.

Prosecutors often allow suspected scouts to plead guilty to conspiring to smuggle one backpack-load of marijuana, or about 40 pounds. But sentencing memorandums show that when agents report large seizures, the plea offer is now often upped to two backpack-loads or more.

The strategy has increased a typical plea offer for a scout with no criminal history from six months to 13 months.

In recent testimony, a border patrol agent said lookouts play a critical role in drug smuggling, likening them to air traffic controllers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Stina Sieg was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2018.