U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents foil multiple drug-smuggling attempts involving tractor-trailers

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Otay Mesa checkpoint
A tractor trailer carrying imports from Mexico passes through the U.S. checkpoint of the Cargo Pre-Inspection facility located on the Mexican side of the Otay Mesa, California, port of entry, June 22, 2016. On any given day, several hundred trucks line up on the Mexican side of the border to deliver imports ultimately awaiting the process of screening by customs officers. (COURTESY: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) field offices at the nation’s southern and northern borders intercept many shipments of illegal drugs and other controlled substances. Many of those smuggling attempts involve the use of tractor-trailers.

Following are a few of the drug-smuggling attempts foiled by border patrol agents during the latter part of July and first week of August.

More than 3 tons of marijuana worth $1.5 million hidden in truckload of ketchup

Marijuana Hidden in Ketchup web
Packages containing 7,645 pounds of marijuana were discovered hidden in a shipment of ketchup at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge. (COURTESY: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

PHARR, Texas — Agents with the CBP’s Office of Field Operations at the Pharr International Bridge cargo facility discovered 7,645 pounds (3,468 kg) of alleged marijuana concealed within a commercial shipment of ketchup arriving from Mexico.

“While drug-smuggling organizations try to be creative in finding ways to conceal their illicit merchandise, CBP officers continue to effectively apply inspection skills and technology to prevent narcotics from crossing our borders,” said Carlos Rodriguez, port director of the Port of Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas.

On July 17, CBP officers assigned to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge cargo facility encountered a tractor-trailer hauling a manifested commercial shipment of ketchup. Utilizing all available tools and resources, including a canine team, officers discovered that the buckets contained more than ketchup. Officers removed 968 packages of alleged marijuana that were hidden within the buckets and have a street value of $1,529,000.

Agents seized the narcotics, along with the tractor-trailer. Homeland Security Investigations continues with the investigation.

Nearly 3,000 pounds of marijuana masquerading as cement seized at northern border

Marijuana Hidden in Crates web
Vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana weighing 2,959 pounds were seized by agents at the Port of Buffalo in New York State. (COURTESY: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — CBP officers at the Port of Buffalo seized 2,959 pounds of marijuana in a commercial shipment manifested as articles of cement.

On July 22, CBP officers assigned to the Peace Bridge encountered a 45-year-old male Canadian citizen driving a commercial tractor-trailer. The driver claimed he was transporting a shipment containing articles of cement.

CBP officers referred the truck for further inspection, and upon physical examination of the shipment, 12 wooden pallet boxes were discovered in the trailer that contained multiple vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana. The total weight of the marijuana was determined to be 2,959 pounds with an estimated street value of more than $6 million. The driver was refused entry into the U.S. and returned to Canada pending further investigation.

“Since travel restrictions began at the border, we have continued to see criminal organizations attempt to exploit perceived vulnerabilities, especially in the commercial environment,” said Jennifer De La O, port director. “I am extremely proud of our CBP officers who have remained vigilant and enforcement-focused during these unprecedented times. Their selfless efforts have yet again led to an impressive seizure of narcotics, preventing these drugs from entering our communities.”

This seizure adds to the already massive increase in drug seizures within the Buffalo Field Office. From Oct. 1, 2019, through July 23, 2020, ports within the Buffalo Field Office, which covers 16 ports of entry throughout New York State, have made more than 1,500 narcotic seizures totaling more than 23,500 pounds.

More than 100 pounds of meth valued at nearly $4 million discovered in sound equipment

Methamphetamine Hidden in Speaker web
CBP agents discovered 12 packets of methamphetamine hidden inside four speakers in a tractor-trailer. (COURTESY: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

LAREDO, Texas — CBP agents assigned to the Interstate 35 Border Patrol checkpoint stopped an attempt to smuggle narcotics.

During the early morning of July 23, agents encountered a tractor trailer at the I-35 Border Patrol checkpoint. During the immigration inspection of the driver, a service canine alerted officials’ attention to the trailer. During a secondary inspection, agents discovered a total of 12 bundles of methamphetamine hidden inside four speakers within the trailer.

The 12 bundles had a total weight of 119.49 pounds with an approximate value of $3,824,000. The case was turned over to Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration for investigation.

“The diligent work by our agents and their canine partners at the Interstate 35 checkpoint stopped nearly 120 pounds of dangerous drugs from reaching communities within our country and kept $3.8 million in proceeds from reaching criminal organizations. Our commitment to protect our citizens extends well beyond our borders,” said Matthew Hudak, chief patrol agent.

CBP agents find meth, fentanyl stowed in duffel bags in rig’s sleeper compartment

Drugs Hidden in Duffels 2 web
Two duffel bags containing 286 pounds of methamphetamine and 26 pounds of fentanyl were hidden in the sleeper compartment of a tractor-trailer. (COURTESY: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

SAN DIEGO — CBP officers at the Otay Mesa cargo port of entry seized 286 pounds of methamphetamine and 26 pounds of fentanyl hidden in the sleeper cab of a tractor-trailer truck July 23.

“Even in the midst of a global pandemic, we continue to see attempts to move hard narcotics across the border and into U.S. communities,” said Pete Flores, CBP’s director of field operations in San Diego. “CBP officers at all of our nation’s legal border crossings remain on the job and vigilant during these unprecedented times.”

About 7 a.m. on Thursday, July 23, a driver arrived at the commercial border crossing with a shipment of recycled cardboard. CBP officers referred the tractor-trailer and driver for a nonintrusive imaging scan and an in-depth examination at the dock.

After the imaging scan showed anomalies in the cab of the truck, a CBP officer entered the truck. Inside, the officer lifted the sleeper compartment and found two black duffel bags hidden inside. CBP officers removed 64 cellophane-wrapped packages from inside the bags; 59 of the packages contained methamphetamine and five contained fentanyl.

CBP officers seized the narcotics, tractor and trailer. The driver, a 36-year-old Mexican citizen with a valid B1/B2 border-crossing card, was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, and booked into the Metropolitan Correctional Center to face federal charges.

According the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl, which can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin, is extremely dangerous to law enforcement and anyone else who may come into contact with it. As a result, the substance represents an unusual hazard for law enforcement.

Separate searches lead to discovery of cocaine, meth hidden in commercial shipments

Cocaine in Zinc Sulfate Shipment web
Packages containing nearly 52 pounds of cocaine were seized by CBP officers at World Trade Bridge. (COURTESY: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

LAREDO, Texas — Agents with the CBP Office of Field Operations at the World Trade Bridge seized hard narcotics with a street value of more than $844,000 in two separate enforcement actions July 30.

“Even though anti-terrorism is our primary mission, CBP officers maintain their vigilance to ensure commercial entries are safe and free of contraband,” said Acting Port Director Andrew Douglas, Laredo Port of Entry.

The first enforcement action occurred on Thursday, July 30, at the World Trade Bridge when CBP officers assigned to the cargo facility encountered a tractor hauling a shipment of zinc sulfate arriving from Mexico. The 2000 Freightliner tractor and shipment were referred for a canine and nonintrusive imaging system inspection, resulting in the discovery of 20 packages containing 51.8 pounds of alleged cocaine within the trailer. The narcotics have an estimated street value of $399,500.

Later that evening, CBP officers encountered an express consignment vehicle arriving from Mexico. The 2013 Kenworth tractor and shipment were referred for a canine and non-intrusive imaging system inspection, resulting in the discovery of one package containing 22.27 pounds of alleged methamphetamine discovered within an express consignment shipment. The contraband is worth $445,329 in street value.

Both seizures combined have an estimated street value of $844,829.

CBP officers seized one trailer and the total narcotics discovered. The cases were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents for further investigation.

Don’t eat these veggies: Meth valued at $16 million stowed in broccoli truck

Methamphetamine Hidden in Broccoli Truck web
Packages containing 804.69 pounds of methamphetamine were seized by CBP officers at Pharr International Bridge. (COURTESY: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

PHARR, Texas — Officials with the U.S. CBP’s Office of Field Operations at the Pharr International Bridge cargo facility discovered $16,094,000 worth of alleged methamphetamine within a commercial trailer hauling a shipment of fresh broccoli.

“This is a substantial amount of hard narcotics that our officers have detected and seized from drug trafficking organizations attempting to smuggle these drugs across our border,” said Carlos Rodriguez, port director of the Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry. “By preventing this drug load from reaching the U.S., CBP advances its border security mission, protecting our citizens and communities.”

On Aug. 3, a 51-year-old male Mexican citizen arrived at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge cargo facility driving a tractor-trailer that contained a commercial shipment of fresh produce. A CBP officer referred the shipment for further inspection, which included a nonintrusive imaging inspection that allowed the officers to discover packages of suspected narcotics concealed within the trailer. The inspection continued into the following day, when ultimately officers removed 1,561 packages of alleged methamphetamine that weighed 804.69 pounds (365 kg).

CBP seized narcotics as well as the tractor-trailer and arrested the driver, a Mexican citizen from General Escobedo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Agents with Homeland Security Investigations are continuing the investigation.

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