Nogales, Ariz. - Saturday afternoon proved to be eventful for Customs and Border Protection officers at the Nogales port of entry when they stopped an attempt to smuggle in more than 5,000 pounds of marijuana hidden among watermelons.
At a little before 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, CBP officers were screening commercial shipments coming into the United States when they noticed a problem with a tractor-trailer hauling a load of watermelons from Mexico and suspected a possible attempt at smuggling contraband into the country. The officers called for a narcotics detector dog to assist them with a preliminary search and after the dog alerted to narcotics odor coming from the trailer, decided a thorough search was necessary.
The tractor-trailer was sent in to the Customs and Border Protection commercial compound for an inspection and, after an x-ray scan showed anomalies with the contents, officers began unloading the trailer. As the containers of watermelons were being unloaded, officers noticed bundles of what later tested to be marijuana hidden inside the containers, mixed in with the watermelons.
In all, officers discovered 200 bundles of marijuana, weighing almost 5,191 pounds. The marijuana, which could have an estimated street value of up to $8.3 million, was seized along with the vehicle. The driver was arrested and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further investigation.
This is the second-largest marijuana seizure in Nogales. The largest occurred a little more than one year ago, on June 2, 2007, when CBP officers discovered 6,160 pounds of marijuana hidden in with a commercial load of tomatoes.
Since then, CBP officers have stopped several attempts at smuggling large quantities of marijuana into the country mixed with produce, including several in recent months. On April 28, 2008, officers seized 3,418 pounds of marijuana hidden among pallets of cucumbers and on April 16, 2008, officers seized 1,340 pounds of marijuana hidden among tomatoes.
This seizure brings the total weight of marijuana seized this fiscal year at the Nogales port of entry to 25,647 pounds.