POLK COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A Polk County law enforcement group said they've recently started helping the federal government with catching illegal exports.
But, according to those involved, the investigation isn't targeting your average criminal, but rather international terrorists.
"We're the first ever to get joined with an export investigation," said commander, Beau Price.
This involves working with Customs and Border Control, as well as the Department of Commerce.
"We explored the money laundering statute and found that in fact it is a violation to illegally export items outside the state," Price said.
According to Price, the criminals in this case are countries that the US is embargoed from trading with.
"And, they reach out and they try to get people to do what they're not supposed to do," Price said. "And, for the most part they don't do it."
But, he said sometimes companies mess up.
"Basically it involves the counties that are on Highway 59, Highway 69, which is where a lot of the transport is going to occur of obviously illegal goods," said Polk County Judge, Sydney Murphy.
Price said these criminals target a popular export from the Polk County area -- oil field equipment.
"They need it and they want it because they need to produce oil and use the money from the production of oil to fund terrorism groups," Price said.
Price added that, once caught, part of the value of the illegal goods will go to the investigation group.
"So, it doesn't go into the county coffers," Murphy said. "It goes to their office. And, then they have the authority to decide how the money's are spent."
Laws with seizures and forfeitures of illegal goods state that all funds must stay within law enforcement.
But, Price said the group plans to make some community-benifiting purchases.
"Metal detectors and devices like that for these small schools that don't have any funding for anything like that," Price said.
The South East Texas Export Investigation has only been active for a little over a year, but they've already participated in the seizure of $1.3 million dollars worth of goods, that they believe would have been used to make improvised explosive devices.