A woman is suing three U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and a drug-test kit-manufacturer after enforcement officials falsely identified a food enzyme she was carrying in her car used for making cheese as methamphetamine at the San Ysidro border crossing in 2014.
Doyma Vanessa Michel was driving from Mexico into the United States on June 2, 2014, when a customs officers directed her car to secondary inspection after noticing the car she was driving was missing a front license plate.
Upon initial inspection, agents found several bottles of an unidentified liquid in Michel's car. The agents tested the substance using the Narco-Pouch 923 Methamphetamine Test Kit manufactured by the Safariland Group. The results came back positive for methamphetamine. But, according to Michel and her attorneys, the substance was not an illicit drug and she was not a drug trafficker: the substance was rennet, a food enzyme extracted from the stomach lining of a calf used to curdle milk an make cheese.
During the June 2014 incident, Michel told the agents that the results were wrong and the product was not methamphetamine. She was arrested and spent the following three months in custody. Michel was released from a federal prison in Otay Mesa in December 2014. According to the lawsuit, no additional tests were conducted on the product. There are no additional details regarding her arrest.
Michel is suing the agents, border patrol agency, and Safariland for $1.5 million for unlawful detention, inadequate training of officers, false imprisonment, and emotional and physical distress.
Michel is also accusing Safariland of misrepresenting the drug-test kit as a reliable way to identify methamphetamine when in fact the company knew otherwise.
"Safariland had superior knowledge of the field test kits such that they knew or should have known the test kits are not as reliable as marketed," reads the lawsuit.
The complaint will make its way through the federal courts.