A shipment of lettuce was stopped by US Customs and Border Protection late last month when officers decided that the “lettuce” looked a little suspicious. They were right: A narcotics K-9 discovered more than 5,750 packages holding more than two tons of Marijuana stowed away in the truck, and imaging and physical inspection confirmed the total amount on board. It is estimated that the drugs have a street value of more than $740,000.
It’s not the first time that drug smugglers have tried to pass as produce distributers. A few months back, more than 3,900 pounds of marijuana were intercepted by people attempting to smuggle the drug in disguised as limes. In another bust last year, drug traffickers were infamously busted trying to sneak almost 2,500 pounds of marijuana across the border in packages designed to make the drugs look like carrots – literally, orange plastic cellophane wrapped cones tucked in with actual carrots in produce boxes.
One has to wonder how many such packages have made it across the border undetected for smugglers to continue along this track. But Port Director Gregory Alvarez believes that the bust is a victory, saying in statement: “This is truly an example of our CBP officers’ hard work, experience and dedication to the CBP mission. I congratulate the officers in advancing the CBP mission and protecting the public from illegal narcotics.”
Sleeping with the Enemy?
In most cases, border patrol officers are on the right side of the law, working hard to stop shipments like these from getting into the country. In other cases, however, it is corrupt officials that make it possible for drug traffickers to get their wares into the country.
In McAllen, Texas, recently, a US Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty to conspiring with drug smugglers in an intricate scheme to stage fake busts that seized fake drugs while redistributing the real drugs on the sly. He admitted that he had taken part in a fake drug seizure in 2007 involving 66 kilos of cocaine and said that he received $8,000 for his role in the ruse. He will be sentenced in the fall and could receive up to five years in prison.
Always Looking for the Angle
If one border patrol agent was caught working for the other side, it is likely that far more are still doing the same. Drug traffickers would not waste time, money, and manpower attempting to drive shipments over the border if it did not sometimes pay off – and pay off well. From South America comes a steady influx of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana that will make its way across the country and onto the street, cut and cut and cut again as it changes hands until it reaches the end consumer in its final state.
Unfortunately, due in part to the shady nature in which it is transported and the greed of each person who passes it along, it is often cut with deadly substances, especially heroin and cocaine. For example, fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is about 100 times more potent than morphine is often used to increase the potency of heavily cut heroin in an effort to further hook customers. Too often, this can result in a deadly overdose, even among those people who have long been using the drug in question and have a reasonable expectation of how their body will respond to a certain dose.
The sale of these substances brings in so much money that it is unlikely they will give up any time soon, no matter how many of their people are killed or imprisoned in the process.
How Will You Respond?
If someone you love is struggling with an addiction to street drugs, their untreated disorder is contributing to this deadly underground economy in addition to putting them at risk of deadly overdose. Though you can do little to change the choices of people in South American who are growing and distributing the drugs, you can help your loved one to connect with treatment services that will help them to put all use of drugs and alcohol in the past and start living a more balanced and healthy life.
How will you take a stand?