David Mendoza first realized something was off in the summer of 2006, when he was rear-ended by a US mail truck.
He had been driving through Portland, Oregon, headed south toward Bend, where his construction company—called ETA because of Mendoza's reputation for being late—was restoring the historic Liberty movie palace, which Mendoza had purchased a few years earlier. "My back bumper flew off into the other lane," Mendoza says. "I picked up the bumper and saw this device with batteries and a long wire. I took it to the Chevy dealership in Bend, and the guy said, 'Dude, this is not good. That looks like a GPS device.'"
Mendoza showed the device to his attorney, who suggested he start checking other cars affiliated with his businesses. In addition to ETA Construction, his businesses included a Seattle pizzeria called Pazzo's and an international marijuana-smuggling consortium. Mendoza found GPS devices on three company trucks and his girlfriend's car. "They were tracking us," Mendoza says. "The heat was on."
In reality, the heat had been on for at least three years. In April of 2003, according to court documents later submitted by the office of US Attorney Jenny Durkan, customs seized 400 pounds of Mendoza's marijuana hidden in a load of lumber on a semitrailer crossing the Canadian border.