Anybody reading federal or state statutes would quickly realize that there are a lot of damned laws on the books. Why does the state feel the need to enact so many laws? Somebody who believed the state exists to protect the general population would likely believe that all, or at least a majority, of those laws are necessary for the protection of the people. Those who understand the true nature of the state also understand that the reason for the large number of laws on the books is so the state has a means of threatening individuals into compliance. Alfred Anaya was a victime of that very tactic:
But in late January 2009, a man whom Anaya knew only as Esteban called for help with a more exotic product: a hidden compartment that Anaya had installed in his Ford F-150 pickup truck. Over the years, these secret stash spots—or traps, as they’re known in automotive slang—have become a popular luxury item among the wealthy and shady alike. This particular compartment was located behind the truck’s backseat, which Anaya had rigged with a set of hydraulic cylinders linked to the vehicle’s electrical system. The only way to make the seat slide forward and reveal its secret was by pressing and holding four switches simultaneously: two for the power door locks and two for the windows.
Sometime in late 2008, Anaya received a call from a customer who lived in the San Diego area. The man wanted him to fix a malfunctioning trap located in Tijuana. Anaya was scared to venture across the border; as much as he hated to renege on his warranty, he refused to go to Mexico.
Anaya thought he had protected himself by turning down the job, but the damage had been done the moment he answered the phone. This particular customer was the target of a DEA investigation, and agents had eavesdropped on their conversation. The DEA decided to tap Anaya’s phone too, in an effort to identify other drug traffickers who were having traps built by Valley Custom Audio.
The agents took Anaya to the DEA’s office in downtown Los Angeles, where they questioned him at length. Anaya spoke freely about his traps, estimating that he had built 15 over the past year. He even boasted about his perfectionism, stressing that he was always careful to conceal his wire harnesses.
The agents told Anaya that he could avoid any potential legal complications by doing them a big favor: They wanted him to outfit his clients’ cars with GPS trackers and miniature cameras, so the DEA could build cases against suspected traffickers. They told him to take a few days to mull over the offer, then they released him from custody.
The next day, a dazed Anaya drove to his father’s grave to meditate on the choice before him. The epiphany he had while kneeling by the headstone wasn’t comforting. “I had a feeling that no matter what decision I made, something bad was going to happen,” Anaya says. “But I couldn’t do anything that would put my family in danger.” And while he felt he could handle jail time, he worried that any trafficker big enough to interest the DEA would have no compunctions about killing his children, nieces, and nephews. That made the decision clear.
When Anaya told the DEA that he was too frightened to become an informant, the agents made a new, more enticing proposition: They would set up Valley Custom Audio in a deluxe storefront, complete with every piece of equipment that Anaya desired. They wouldn’t ask him to place any surveillance gadgets in cars, but the shop would be bugged from floor to ceiling.
Once again, Anaya refused.
On December 10, Anaya was arrested and subsequently charged in Los Angeles Superior Court for “false compartment activity.” He was initially denied bail, in part because an illegal assault rifle and a bulletproof vest had been discovered in his house during a police search. (“Y’know, hey, I like to shoot guns,” Anaya says unapologetically; he has two large pistols tattooed on his chest.) His lawyer advised him that, given his totally clean criminal record, he was unlikely to spend much time behind bars for such a minor offense.
But in March 2010, Anaya received grim and surprising news: The federal government was taking over the case, and it was going to prosecute him in Kansas—a state he had never set foot in.
Although Anaya did nothing illegal the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) used California’s law against building secret compartments to first coerce him. State agents gave him two options to avoid cage time: bug customer vehicles or work in a bugged garage. Both options carried a great deal of risk for Anaya and his family. Drug runners aren’t generally known for being nice people. They are attracted to the high payout that drug running offers and not put off by the fact that they could suffer a great deal of state violence. In fact knowing initiated violence is a likely outcome many of the people attracted to the drug trade are individuals who hold very few moral quarrels with using violence themselves. To protect themselves from state violence drug runners often employ violence against individuals who they fear will turn them over to the state. Thanks to the state the drug market is a vicious cycle of violence. Thanks to the DEA Anaya only had two options: face the violence of the state or face the potential violence of drug runners. He chose the violence of the state.
The reason for the vast number of laws on the books is simple; it gives the state a tool to coerce individuals with. If California didn’t have a law against creating secret compartments the DEA may not have had any leverage to use against Anaya. Thanks to the law they had a tool to threaten him with. Since Anaya didn’t fold under the threat of violence the DEA decided to make an example of him. Now the DEA can tell future compartment builders about Anaya, which may convince those builders to take their chances with the potential violence of drug runners instead of the state’s demonstrated violence.