Drug smugglers are getting more creative and desperate to find ways of transporting drugs across the Mexico and US border.
A Mexican drug smuggler is in serious trouble after he was caught transporting nearly four tons of marijuana, worth $2.3 million, hidden in a shipment of jalapeño peppers.
The 37-year-old Mexican citizen, who has not been named, entered the U.S. through the Otay Mesa cargo facility on the U.S.-Mexico border just east of Tijuana, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) revealed in a press release. The truck was initially inspected, and then sent to a secondary screening, where a drug dog indicated that there was cannabis on board.
Dogs sniffed out something suspicious among the peppers, and when officers tore open the large cardboard boxes in question, they found more than garden vegetables inside.
The peppers fell away, exposing stacks of 314 packages of marijuana tightly wrapped in bright green packaging.
The shipment weighed 7,560 pounds — nearly four tons — and was valued at $2.3 million, according to law enforcement.
“I am proud of the officers for seizing this significant marijuana load,” Otay Mesa Port Director Rosa Hernandez said in a CBP statement. “Not only did they prevent the drugs from reaching our community, they also prevented millions of dollars of potential profit from making it into the hands of a transnational criminal organization.”
Perishable food items — or packages made to look like perishable food items — are commonly used to disguise marijuana shipments.
Although the marijuana being smuggled in a jalapeño pepper shipment caught headlines, it wasn’t the biggest bust at the facility this week.
On August 13, two days before the pepper bust, officers detected more than 10,000 pounds of cannabis in a shipment of auto parts. CBP reports that marijuana is the most common illegal substance that comes over the U.S.-Mexican border.
From October 2018 through July 2019, the agency seized 225,000 pounds of marijuana, compared to just 81,000 pounds of cocaine, the second most commonly seized illegal substance.
Earlier this year, CBP reported that drug cartels were using trucks designed to look like those for the postal service or major brands in order to smuggle drug across the border with less scrutiny.
Traffickers have even used drivers who were totally oblivious to their part in the scheme. Last year, a Mexican man working in the U.S. called the San Diego Sheriff’s Office when he discovered five pounds of unidentified drugs stuck onto his car with a magnet.
“It’s our feeling that someone targeted this car because he could cross the border every day with the [commuter] pass and they were probably waiting to collect the narcotics later today,” Sgt. Tim Chantler of the sheriff’s department said at the time.
The driver was let off the hook because he called the police, but Chantler said that others need to be aware of the risk.
“I would be checking my vehicle every day before I cross the border, because if you get caught at the border you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do,” he said.
The jalapeño peppers seizure on Aug. 15 came just three days after officers found 10,642 pounds of marijuana inside a shipment of plastic auto parts at the same San Diego facility.
Photos: Google images