Customs and Border Protection agents at the Otay Mesa crossing between San Diego and Tijuana uncovered 3,100 pounds of marijuana hidden in a shipment of cucumbers this month.
“CBP officers in San Diego produce results, they’ve started the fiscal year with a significant seizure,” Pete Flores, CBP director of field operations for San Diego, said in a release.
Mid-morning on October 1, agents at the crossing’s cargo entry point pulled a tractor-trailer carrying a shipment of cucumbers over for inspections.
The shipment was offloaded, and upon inspection agents came across large wrapped packages among the cucumbers. Field tests of the packages’ contents were positive for marijuana. In addition to the tractor-trailer, CBP officers seized 376 packages of marijuana with a street value of over $1.5 million, the agency said in a release.
Seizures of drugs concealed in food shipments are not uncommon on the US-Mexico border. In August, border agents uncovered more than 4,000 pounds of marijuana hidden among limes. In two incidents in early July, border agents found well over 200 pounds of meth hidden in shipments of jalapeños and cucumbers.
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Food shipments are in some ways amenable to smugglers. Some products can be odorous or hard to search, which would help mask the scent of narcotics, particularly of marijuana. (Marijuana is often moved through tunnels because of its distinctive smell.)
In one instance, Mexican authorities discovered a multiton shipment of cocaine hidden in containers of spicy salsa.
In some cases, smugglers add camouflage to food-borne drugs: In January, border agents in Texas found shipment of marijuana wrapped in orange tape and a concealed within a cargo of carrots. The bust uncovered more than a ton of weed worth a half-million dollars.
Traffickers also hide drugs in perishable foodstuffs with the hope that border agents won’t drag out an inspection or, as the Sinaloa cartel has done, in hopes that agents will steer clear of pungent or easily spoiled goods, like fish.
The seizure on October 1 came during a weekend that saw 528 pounds of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin valued at more than $2.5 million seized by agents working at entry points all along the California-Mexico border.