What border crisis? CBP seizes $1.3M worth of meth hidden within spinach shipment

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OTAY MESA, CA – According to officials, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers who were working the Otay Mesa commercial facility earlier in March discovered over 500 pounds of suspected methamphetamine – which the suspected narcotics were disguised as a shipment of spinach. 

At approximately 6:30 p.m. on March 10th, CBP officers working the Otay Mesa commercial facility encountered a 49-year-old tractor-trailer driver that was carrying a load of what appeared to be fresh spinach.

Except, officers would soon find that this wasn’t an ordinary shipment of veggies. 

During an inspection of the tractor-trailer, CBP officers had referred the driver of the vehicle to continue on to the X-ray imaging system located within the port. 

While the tractor-trailer was undergoing the X-ray examination, CBP officers noticed that there was something awry within the shipment of spinach – and promptly referred the vehicle over to a more thorough examination area at the dock. 

A CBP canine team was brought into the fold, and a dog had reportedly alerted to the shipment of spinach. 

Image of meth packages wrapped in paper printed with images of spinach - U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Image of meth packages wrapped in paper printed with images of spinach – U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Upon further inspection of the shipment, CBP officers were said to have found 127 wrapped packages of methamphetamine mixed in with the spinach shipment – with the narcotics weighing in at over 580 pounds. 

Perhaps the most creative twist in this bust was the fact that the packaged methamphetamine was wrapped in paper that bore printed images of spinach on the paper. 

Rosa Hernandez, port director of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, made the following statement about the seizure: 

“CBP officers continue to expedite legitimate trade and travel without letting their guard down when it comes to protecting our country. We are aggressively combating the flow of illegal narcotics and preventing them to reach our communities.”

The driver, identified as a Mexican national, was later handed over to ICE HSI agents – who in turn transported the driver over to Metropolitan Correction Center in San Diego where he awaits federal charges. 

The vehicle and narcotics were also seized by CBP officers, with the estimated street value of the methamphetamine being around $1.3 million. 

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When it comes to narcotics smuggling, there’s no shortage of creative attempts to get illicit product into the United States. 

Earlier this month, we at Law Enforcement Today shared a report on the discovery of cocaine-filled teddy bears being discovered in Florida. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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JACKSONVILLE, FL– Criminals are continually coming up with new and creative ways to smuggle illegal narcotics into the United States. This newly discovered drug operation out of Florida utilized a popular children’s toy in order to avoid suspicion. 

On Thursday, March 4th, the Department of Homeland Security along with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office announced that three men from Jacksonville were arrested for drug trafficking between the United States and Puerto Rico.  

Police say 28-year-old Edgar Lopez, 24-year-old Yaddiel Lopes, and Cassidy Martinez-Iglesias were attempting to run a narcotics distribution network via the U.S. Postal Service in Jacksonville, Florida.

An investigation was opened that involved multiple agencies including the United States Postal Service, Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agency Puerto Rico, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

CBS47 reported that Drug authorities in Puerto Rico first contacted the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in January regarding a suspicious package that was to be delivered to Edgar Lopez’s residence in Jacksonville.

The package contained a stuffed animal, a teddy bear, filled with two kilos of cocaine and a tracking device, according to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Director Mike Bruno.

Following this information, the United States Postal Service discovered a second package that was to be delivered from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico.

Upon further investigation, the United States Postal Service agents discovered the package contained another teddy bear, however this bear was full of cash instead of narcotics.

The return address was reportedly an apartment complex on Mayport Road where Yaddiel allegedly worked.

According to investigators, the suspects used multiple locations within Jacksonville where they would ship and receive the illegal narcotics, including businesses and private residences. 

On February 23rd, following the discovery of a third suspicious package which was en route to Mayport Road from Puerto Rico, narcotics detectives, United States Postal Service postal inspectors, and a Florida Highway Patrol canine handler met at the Post Office in Jacksonville to determine the contents of box.

They once again discovered a teddy bear that was stuffed with cocaine, CBS47 reported.

According to Mike Bruno, on February 26th, an undercover operation was conducted at the apartment complex on Mayport Road. Officers were able to successfully take all three men were taken into custody.

It is reported that Police seized over 5 kilos of cocaine, $130,000 in cash, various firearms, and BMW.

 
Recent reports are showcasing a concerning trend relating to overdose deaths in the United States, with over 83,500 people having died from an overdose in the 12-month period ending July 2020. 
 
According to the data, fatal overdoses have increased by approximately 24%.
 
These shocking numbers prompted the CDC to issue a health advisory back on December 17th of 2020, specifically making mention of fentanyl-related deaths and the rise in overdoses in correlation to lockdown measures enacted at the onset of the pandemic.
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