Drugs valued at nearly $65 million hidden in commercial shipments of cactus and limes

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Drugs Hidden in Cactus Shipment
In three separate incidents that took place Aug. 7 and Aug. 11, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers seized nearly $65 million in narcotics hidden in commercial shipments of cactus and limes. (Courtesy: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

OTAY MESA, Calif. — In three separate incidents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the ports of entry and commercial cargo facilities at Otay Mesa intercepted methamphetamine and marijuana hidden in shipments manifested as cactus and limes in early August.

About 8 a.m. Aug. 7, a tractor-trailer arrived at the Otay Mesa cargo facility with a shipment manifested as cactus. CBP officers referred the shipment to be unloaded at the dock for an intensive inspection. A CBP canine alerted officers to a pallet of cactus. CBP officers searched the crates of cactus pads, which are often used in food dishes and beverages, and found packages, wrapped with green tape and hidden inside among the cactus pads. In total, officers found 590 packages containing a total of about 668 pounds of methamphetamine. The narcotics have an estimated street value of more than $1.5 million.

About 6:30 p.m. the same day, at the same cargo crossing, CBP officers sent a tractor-trailer, loaded with a shipment manifested as limes, for further inspection after discovering anomalies during an X-ray scan. CBP officers opened the boxes and found 622 large, tape-wrapped packages inside the boxes manifested as limes. The packages contained 14,800 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of almost $60 million.

“International drug-trafficking organizations will use whatever means they can think of to try and move their illicit shipments into the U.S.,” said Pete Flores, director of field operations for CBP in San Diego. “CBP officers dedicate their careers to protecting our country by securing the border. For them, these unusual seizures are all in a day’s work.”

Less than a week later, about 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 11, CBP officers at the Otay Mesa commercial facility discovered yet another shipment of methamphetamine hidden in a tractor-trailer manifested as transporting cactus.

After an X-ray exam revealed anomalies within the shipment, CBP officers referred the truck and trailer for a more intensive examination. A CBP canine team screened the truck and trailer, and the detector dog alerted to the shipment.

CBP officers searched the shipment and discovered 1,098 wrapped packages of methamphetamine mixed with the cactus in crates. The packages weighed more than 1,464 pounds and had an estimated street value of about $3.3 million.

CBP officers turned the driver, a 48-year-old male U.S. citizen, over to the custody of agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) who later transported him to the Metropolitan Correction Center (MCC) in San Diego; he will face federal charges.

“Incidents such as this highlight the great work by our CBP officers, who continue to expedite legitimate trade and travel while interdicting significant violations that would harm our community,” said Joseph Misenhelter, officer in charge. “(This is) an example of (how) our layered enforcement approach — initial screening, use of nonintrusive technology, canine examination and physical examination — all play a part in how we keep America safe.”

As the month of August continued, CBP officers at both the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders helped prevent illegal drugs from entering the U.S

In all cases, the conveyances and narcotics were seized. Criminal charges are merely allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Aug 10 Seizure
Packages containing 763 pounds of methamphetamine, hidden in a commercial shipment of paving stones, were seized by CBP officers at World Trade Bridge Aug. 7. (Courtesy: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

Meth valued at $15 million hidden in shipment of ‘handcrafted cobblestone’

LAREDO, Texas — On Friday, Aug. 7, CBP officers assigned to the World Trade Bridge intercepted a tractor-trailer carrying a shipment manifested as “handcrafted cobblestone.” The 2019 Kenworth tractor and shipment were referred for a canine and nonintrusive imaging system inspection, resulting in the discovery of 336 packages containing more than 763 pounds of alleged methamphetamine within the consignment. The narcotics have an estimated street value of $15,266,414.

“The upsurge of methamphetamine trafficking has become a serious international health and security threat,” said Acting Port Director Andrew Douglas, Laredo Port of Entry. “These seizures validate CBP’s commitment in securing our borders and protecting our communities from this persistent drug threat.”

CBP officers seized the narcotics and the case was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents for further investigation.

Aug 13 Seizure
CBP officers at the Port of Buffalo’s Peace Bridge discovered vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana hidden in a shipment of lighting equipment. (Courtesy: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

Nearly 2 tons of marijuana, hidden in shipment of lighting equipment, seized at Port of Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Aug. 10, CBP officers assigned to the Peace Bridge selected a commercial shipment, manifested as “seven skids of lighting,” for further examination. Upon inspection of the shipment, 14 wooden pallet boxes were located. An internal inspection of the pallets revealed numerous cardboard boxes that had been filled with vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana. The marijuana was determined to be 3,836pounds with an estimated street value of more than $8 million dollars.

“These CBP Officers have remained vigilant and engaged as travel restrictions at the border continue”, said Jennifer De La O, port director. “They have never let their guard down and their discovery of another large marijuana seizure exemplifies their dedication to the CBP mission.”

Aug 17 Seizure
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers discovered approximately 474 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a commercial shipment of acrylic polymers at World Trade Bridge. (Courtesy: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

Meth valued at nearly $9.5 million seized at World Trade Bridge

LAREDO, Texas —CBP officers at the World Trade Bridge seized methamphetamine worth an estimated $9,483,307 million Aug. 10, when officers intercepted a tractor-trailer carrying a shipment manifested as acrylic polymers.

The 2009 Kenworth tractor and trailer were referred for a canine and nonintrusive imaging inspection, resulting in the discovery of 10 packages containing 474.17 pounds of alleged methamphetamine hidden within the consignment.

“Methamphetamine has an appalling impact on individuals, families and our communities,” said Andrew Douglass, acting port director at the Laredo Port of Entry. “CBP is dedicated to disrupting the flow of this deadly narcotic through ongoing enforcement operations.”

CBP officers seized the narcotics. The case was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents for further investigation.

‘Office furniture’ shipment contains more than half a ton of marijuana

PORT HURON, Mich. — On Aug. 17, CBP officers at the Blue Water Bridge seized more than one-half ton of marijuana from a commercial truck with Ontario plates.

Officers conducted an examination of the truck, which had manifested it was carrying office furniture destined to locations in Michigan. During the exam, CBP officers uncovered more than 1,114 pounds marijuana in vacuum-sealed packages, concealed in cardboard boxes and loaded onto wooden pallets in the truck.

“Even during a pandemic, traffickers continue to attempt to exploit our borders and will stop at nothing to try and introduce illicit drugs into our communities,” said Michael Fox, port director. “Our officers remain steadfast in their commitment to protecting our borders from all types of criminal activity.”

Aug 24 Seizure
More than 1,000 pounds of marijuana was hidden in a commercial shipment of steel wire. (Courtesy: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

CBP officers in Detroit discover more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana in shipment of steel wire

DETROIT – On Aug. 23, CBP officers at the Fort Street Cargo Facility encountered a commercial truck operated by a Canadian citizen. The driver presented a manifest for steel wire that was destined for a distribution center in Chicago.

Upon entry, CBP officers became suspicious and referred the shipment for additional inspection. Officers opened the first of the five wooden crates and discovered it to be loaded with vacuum sealed packages each containing marijuana. In all, officers discovered more than 1,031 pounds of marijuana concealed in five wooden crates.

“The Port of Detroit is proud to have prevented the exploitation of our borders and the introduction of illicit drugs into our communities”, said Devin Chamberlain, port director. “I am equally proud of our CBP officers and agriculture specialists, who remain vigilant in their efforts to protect the American people every day.”

Rio Grande Valley’s canine agents help CBP officers in drug seizures

EDINBURG, Texas — U.S. Border Patrol agents working with their canine partners continue to prove effective against hard narcotic smuggling attempts at the Rio Grande Valley checkpoints.

On Aug. 27, agents working at the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint referred a tractor-trailer to the secondary inspection area after a canine alerted to the tractor. During the secondary inspection, agents discovered liquid methamphetamine inside one of the tractor’s gas tanks. Agents arrested the driver and notified the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the discovery. Agents then requested a hazardous material team to extract the dangerous drug.

That same afternoon, Falfurrias Checkpoint agents sent another tractor-trailer to the secondary inspection area after a canine alerted to the vehicle. During the investigation, agents located more than 60 bundles of methamphetamine weighing more than 180 pounds and worth an estimated $4.5 million. CBP turned the case over to DEA for federal prosecution.

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