Customs officials this week discovered a semi-truck hauling nearly $3 million worth of methamphetamine disguised as onions with what they called an “unusual … level of detail.”
The narcotics, weighing a total of 1,336 pounds, were shaped into nearly 1,200 small globes and wrapped in a white covering, “designed to blend into” the sacks of the legitimate produce with which they were shipped, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection news release.
Officers discovered the drug shipment around 1 p.m. Sunday at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry inside a trailer being hauled by a semi and its driver, a 46-year-old Mexican man. Officers sent the tractor-trailer to a secondary inspection area, where a drug-sniffing dog zeroed in on the illicit cargo mixed in with the genuine onions.
The seized drugs had an estimated street value of about $2.9 million, CBP officials said.
“This was not only a clever attempt to try and smuggle in narcotics, one I haven’t seen before, but also time consuming to wrap narcotics into these small packages,” Sidney Aki, CBP’s San Diego-area director of field operations, said in the news release.
In recent years, customs officials have discovered methamphetamine and cannabis disguised as, or mixed in with, shipments of limes, cactus, papayas and spinach.
“While we have certainly seen narcotics in produce before, it’s unusual for us to see this level of detail in the concealment,” Aki said in the release, noting that the extra effort by the smugglers is a tribute and response to “how effective our officers are.”
CBP officers arrested the driver, turning him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and seized the semi, trailer and drugs.