-- Customs and Border Protection has released its top ten fascinating/interesting/bizarre finds for 2015. Most of the seizures involve drugs, but there were also bugs, meat and hoverboards. Smugglers got creative this year, stuffing meth into sneakers and making marijuana appear as watermelon.
“The men and women of CBP serve tirelessly on the frontlines 24/7 to protect our nation’s security and economic prosperity,” said Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “CBP officers, agents, and agriculture specialists remain vigilant while patrolling the borders and processing legitimate travelers and cargo for entry into the U.S. every day.”
CBP chose these seizures to demonstrate the various ways that criminal organizations attempt to smuggle narcotics and people into the U.S.
The list is in no particular order, according to the agency.
1. Illegal Pork Meat Tamales
On Nov. 2, CBP agriculture specialists at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) seized 450 prohibited pork meat tamales, which were discovered inside the luggage of a passenger arriving from Mexico, according to the agency.
“Although tamales are a popular holiday tradition, foreign meat products can carry serious animal diseases from countries affected by outbreaks of Avian Influenza, Mad Cow and Swine Fever," said Anne Maricich, CBP Acting Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles at the time.
2. Semi-Submersible Vessel With 8 Tons of Cocaine
Law enforcement partners, including CBP Office of Air and Marine agents, uncovered 16,870 pounds of cocaine packed inside the semi-submersible drug-trafficking vessel in the eastern Pacific Ocean on July 18. The estimated street value of the drugs was hundreds of millions of dollars.
Drug traffickers use these custom-built crafts to move large amounts of drugs and illicit contraband because the vessel's low profile can make detection difficult, according to CBP. They are similar to a submarine, with a significant portion of the hull below the waterline.
3. Drugs Shaped Like Watermelons
In May, CBP officers confiscated 1,455 pounds of marijuana, worth $728,000, from a Mexican national when he attempted to enter the U.S. via the Port of Nogales. His tractor-trailer caught the attention of a CBP narcotics detection canine and 128 bales of melon-shaped marijuana was discovered, according to the CBP.
4. 69 Packages of Meth in a Car
In a double bust on March 25, $1.3 million worth of narcotics were discovered hidden inside two different cars. Agents found 1.21 pounds of black tar heroin, 17.20 pounds of China White heroin, and 22.38 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of $573,720. Multiple bundles were found hidden inside a false compartment, according to CBP.
Hours later, agents stopped another car, with 69 packages of methamphetamine hidden in the rear quarter panels of the vehicle. The methamphetamine weighed a total of 82.36 pounds and has an estimated street value of $823,600.
5. Hitchhiking bugs
CBP also attempts to prevent the entry of plant pests and exotic foreign animal diseases that could harm agricultural resources. In August, agriculture specialists at the Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry intercepted two first-in-the-nation pests within commercial shipments of fresh papayas and limes.
These creepy crawlies were identified as Derobrachus inaequalis (Cerambycidae) and Eusattus venosus Champion (Tenebrionidae).
6. Hoverboards -- Not From the Future
With Christmas just around the corner, major safety concerns have arisen over reports of fires starting in some of the self-balancing hoverboards. On Wednesday, CBP seized 445 hoverboards with counterfeit trademarks and fake, potentially dangerous, batteries from the Port of Norfolk, Virginia, according to CBP.
The seized hoverboard shipment had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of more than $171,000.
7. Spools of Cable Filled With Drugs
In April, a 1994 Peterbilt tractor towing a flatbed trailer entered the Bridge of the Americas commercial cargo lot from Mexico. The flatbed trailer was transporting six reels of wound cable. It turned out that those spools contained 1,365 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value of $1,092,000.
“Because of the complexity of the drug concealment, it took CBP more than 12 hours to open and remove the drugs from specially built compartments,” said CBP El Paso Port Director Beverly Good.
8. Meth in Shoes
Better call Saul. In July, a 51-year-old man was apprehended when a CBP officer working at the Paso Del Norte port of entry noticed that the approaching pedestrian appeared to wearing bulky shoes. Officers found 2.4 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in his sneakers.
9. Cocaine Inside Fried Fish
CBP officers at the Miami International Airport discovered 2 pounds of cocaine concealed inside fried fish that was being carried in the luggage of a passenger arriving from Jamaica in June. Officers noticed anomalies in some of the cooked fish when it went through the X-ray machine and upon further examination saw that the bellies of some of the fish were sewn together and certain fish felt thicker than the rest.
“Drug smugglers are using increasingly innovative methods," said Miami International Airport Port Director Christopher Maston.
10. Cloned Border Patrol Vehicle With Undocumented Immigrants
Earlier this month, 12 undocumented immigrants were piled into a fake Border Patrol vehicle, but it was later spotted and pulled over by real Border Patrol agents.
"Smugglers have resorted to desperate measures to conduct their illicit business," said Mario Martinez, Chief of the Laredo Sector Border Patrol. Martinez cited the "training, attention to detail and vigilance of our Border Patrol agents" for stopping the human smuggling attempt.