Thousands of pounds of illegal narcotics were found hidden in vats of jalapeño paste and seized at the U.S.-Mexico border last week, authorities said, thanks in part to K-9 dogs that sniffed out the suspicious cargo. The drugs altogether are worth an estimated $10.4 million.
Border security officers uncovered the illicit cargo inside a commercial tractor-trailer being examined at an inspection site in San Diego, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Thursday in a news release. The vehicle said to be carrying a shipment of jalapeño paste had actually brought with it 349 packages of methamphetamine and cocaine, which officers removed from the vats of paste themselves after K-9 dogs screened and flagged the trailer.
CBP identified the driver as a 28-year-old man with a valid border crossing card — a visitor’s visa that the U.S. issues to people who are citizens and residents of Mexico. The agency said border security referred the driver to the Otay Mesa Cargo Facility for inspection after he passed the entry point into California on Wednesday morning.
Testing on the suspicious packages found inside his truck revealed the vats of jalapeño paste contained about 3,161 pounds of methamphetamine and 522 pounds of cocaine, CBP said. Officers seized the drugs and turned over the driver to Homeland Security Investigations for processing.
“Our K-9 teams are an invaluable component of our counter-narcotics operations, providing a reliable and unequalled mobile detection capability,” said Rosa Hernandez, Otay Mesa Port Director.
Officers at the CBP field office in San Diego seized more than 14,000 pounds of narcotics at border crossing points in the area in November alone, according to the agency.
In addition to drug shipments seized on land, the U.S. Coast Guard said earlier this month that a crew operating in waters off the Southern California coast offloaded roughly 18,219 pounds of cocaine, which has an estimated street value of almost $240 million. The cocaine was seized from several vessels suspected of running drug smuggling operations off the coast of Mexico, Central America and South America in November.
It’s not uncommon for drug traffickers to hide narcotics in unusual places. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in central California announced that four were charged for allegedly running a transnational drug trafficking operation that exported wholesale amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine to Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. The drugs were hidden in commercial products like instant noodle packets, car parts, emergency kits and subwoofers, authorities said.
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