Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) found plenty of papayas in a shipment manifested as such, but there was so much more that smugglers had left off the list: 5,443 kilograms of weed with a street value of $33.8 million.
At 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 22, a tractor-trailer driven by a Mexican citizen arrived at the Otay Mesa port of entry in California, notes a statement from CBP. Supposedly hauling fresh papayas, the vehicle underwent X-ray imaging.
Officers had not even had time to offload the cargo when a CBP narcotic detector K-9 confirmed suspicions that something was up.
A full search of the tractor-trailer revealed 873 wrapped packages of cannabis commingled with the shipment of papayas.
The truck, trailer and narcotics were seized, while the 50-year-old was turned over to the custody of agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was later transported to a corrections centre in San Diego, CBP reports.
The enforcement efforts and experience of CBP officers “are put to the test regularly, and the results are phenomenal as their focus is always to protect this country,” Anne Maricich, acting director of field operations for CBP in San Diego, says in the statement.
Both fruits and vegetables have served as frequent guises for drug dealers looking to smuggle cannabis across borders. Over just the last year or so, these have included coconuts, cucumbers, limes and broccoli.
The value of the seizure was also massive. Over the last month, for example, other CBP confiscations involving weed have been valued at US$1 million ($1.3 million), US$731,000 ($913,000), US$2.1 million ($2.6 million), US$3.2 million ($4 million) and US$1.9 million ($2.4 million).