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Ammo firm asks court for damages in case where driver wound up in Mexico

Jabin Bogan, who was transporting this ammunition from Tennessee to Phoenix when he strayed into Mexico, was not part of a suit filed last week seeking damages from motor carrier and broker. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker News Services

12/11/2012

FORT WORTH, Texas — The company that was shipping ammunition which ultimately wound up in the hands of the Mexican government when a truck driver said he took a wrong turn, has filed suit to recover losses.

United Nations Ammo Co. of Phoenix is asking for damages in the amount of $84,435 from Demco Trans of Euless, Texas, doing business as Demco Express and against Dennis Mekenye, owner of the motor carrier, as well as American Group, which brokered the load.

The suit said American Group was negligent in failing to ensure the United Nations Ammo was contracting with a reliable carrier.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas.

The suit said the damages included the lost ammunition, court and attorney costs and anything else the judge sees fit to award.

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The saga of the lost ammunition began April 17 when Jabin Bogan, who is not named in the suit, was arrested by Mexican authorities after Bogan said he took a wrong turn in El Paso and wound up in Mexico.

Mexico prosecutors contended at the time that the cargo was ammunition that could be used in the assault rifles of choice of the drug cartels there.

Mekenye said in April that Bogan informed him that after making two of his three stops in El Paso, Texas, he proceeded to drive to the third stop before heading to Phoenix, where the ammunition was to be delivered. But he took a wrong turn and found himself at the Bridge of The Americas, unable to make a U-turn.

Bogan was released from the Mexican prison in late November.

At a trial in Mexico, he was found guilty of possession of military ammunition and sentenced to three years, but the ruling was later commuted for time served and a fine.
In an apparent attempt to show that Demco was not a reliable carrier, the plaintiffs cited the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s imminent hazard operation out-of-service order issued against Demco on May 25.

The order followed a compliance review that, while the FMCSA did not say so, was sparked either by the April 17 occurrence or by the carrier’s high CSA scores, which at the time of the order were Unsafe Driving (97.1 percent), Fatigued Driving (99.4 percent), Driver Fitness (99.8 percent), Drugs and Alcohol (81.2 percent), and Vehicle Maintenance (97.1 percent).

The investigation by FMCSA found that Demco had falsified drivers’ records, allowed operators to drive with suspended licenses, used drivers without licenses, and did not properly screen drivers for controlled substances.

Bogan said in an interview after he was released that only a few guards in the Mexico prison spoke English, as did a cellmate who had lived in Oklahoma City. Otherwise, he was isolated. He said he didn't receive letters or phone calls most of the time.

"I prayed in the showers," Bogan said. "I prayed when I ate. I prayed when I used the restroom. I prayed just when I was playing chess with somebody else. I prayed while I was playing with them. I just prayed as much as I could to keep myself focused from losing it."

He said he didn't eat prison food at first and eventually made it through his time by imagining he was being served a cheeseburger or slice of pizza. His first meal on the plane ride home was from Burger King.

Bogan said he was first told an investigation would take two days.

"Forty-eight hours turned into seven months," he said.

The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com.

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