A pallet of cacti, a spare tire, and what appeared to be a shipment of limes. That was the Trojan Horse carrying more than $61 million worth of narcotics seized by border officers in what was a busy weekend in southern California.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that the would-be drug shipment was intercepted on Friday at the ports of entry in San Diego and Imperial Valley counties, a haul that included 668 pounds of methamphetamine, nearly 15,000 pounds of marijuana, as well as fentanyl and heroin.
The bust occurred around 8 a.m., when “a tractor-trailer arrived at the Otay Mesa cargo facility with a shipment manifested as cactus,” prompting CBP officers to refer the vehicle for “intensive inspection.”
A canine team was then drawn to a pallet of cactus, inside of which officers found “packages, wrapped with green tape, hidden inside among the pads…containing about 668 pounds of methamphetamine.,” which the agency said carries a street value of more than $1.5 million.
The officers’ day wasn’t finished. That evening, a different tractor-trailer arrived at the same crossing carrying a number of large boxes, inside of which CBP officers discovered “tape-wrapped packages…manifested as limes.” The ersatz lime shipment was in fact “622 large, tape-wrapped packages…containing 14,880 pounds of marijuana,” with a street value of nearly $60 million.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, officers stopped a vehicle entering at the Calexico port of entry. With the assistance of a canine team again, the CBP found a spare tire inside the vehicle carrying “one package of fentanyl with a weight of 2.43 pounds, one package of heroin with a weight of 2.56 pounds, and 41 packages of methamphetamine with a weight of 67.20 pounds,” all with a street value of roughly $125,000.
The driver of that vehicle, a 35-year-old male United States citizen, was taken into custody.
“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.”
Other Recent Busts
The subterfuge employed by the would-be traffickers calls to mind a bust last summer at the Otay Mesa port of entry near the border between San Diego and Tijuana. Then, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted almost four tons of marijuana being carried in “a tractor pulling a trailer with cargo manifested as jalapeño peppers.” Officers at the scene, with the assistance of a canine unit, found 300 large wrapped packages of marijuana clocking in at 7,560 pounds—with a street value of more than $2 million—ensconced among several pallets of the peppers.
There’s plenty of action along the northern border, too. Late last month, the CBP stopped a Canadian man driving a commercial tractor trailer who said he was transporting articles of cement; in fact, he was hauling 2,959 pounds of marijuana.