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CBP Seizes Largest Synthetic Drug Shipment in Port of Cincinnati History

Release Date: 
June 26, 2020

CINCINNATI— On May 11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Cincinnati seized an air shipment at a local cargo examination station, which has recently yielded 530 pounds of synthetic drugs and controlled substances.Total Seizure

This shipment came from China and was headed to a single importer in Aurora, Colorado. When officers examined the shipment, they found more than 160 smaller packages addressed to individuals and businesses across the nation. These smaller shipments contained various items including regulated medications, agriculture and food products, intellectual property rights violations such as counterfeit handbags and shoes, and 530 pounds of synthetic drugs and controlled substances.

Collectively, this is the largest synthetic drug seizure in the history of the Port of Cincinnati.

Robert E. White, Director of CBP Field Operations for the Chicago Field Office, underlines the significance of this seizure. “As the country’s first line of defense, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is tasked with protecting our nation’s borders as we face an ever-changing threat environment. Synthetic drugs threaten the health and safety of our nation’s citizens. This seizure epitomizes the dedication of our officers and showcases the significant role they play in ensuring CBP’s strategy to combat the illicit flow of narcotics is successful.”

Of the 530 pounds of illicit narcotics and other controlled substances, around 435 pounds were Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances. The remainder was Schedule III and IV substances and various prohibited or regulated products such as prescription-only medications like sedatives, steroids, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications, and medications intended for prevention or treatment of Covid-19. At least 192 pounds of the seized substances are known precursors for fentanyl synthesis.

Large seizureThe 530 pounds of controlled substances included 156 pounds of synthetic cannabinoids and 16 pounds of synthetic cathinones with a combined street value of $2,003,837. Synthetic cannabinoids have various street names such as Spice and K2. Synthetic cathinones are better known as bath salts.

“I want to commend everyone involved in making sure these deadly substances were never allowed to reach the streets of our communities,” said Cleveland Area Port Director Diann Rodriguez.

In addition to the 530 pounds of synthetic drugs, CBP agriculture specialists confiscated more than 162 pounds of prohibited products from this shipment, including unlabeled veterinary medications, meat products, and fruit peels, all which are vectors for plant and animal diseases. None of these materials were listed on any manifest included with the shipment.

CBP officers also discovered a number of intellectual property rights violations in this shipment including counterfeit products from multiple large brand name manufacturers such as Apple, Air Jordan, Louis Vuitton, Samsung, Tory Burch, Yeezy, and fake Covid 19 test kits. The total manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) would have been $1,256,787 had the products been genuine.

“This is the largest synthetic seizure in the history of our port,” said Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie. “I’m extremely proud of our officers who worked to make sure these dangerous drugs and illicit items were removed from the hands of citizens and the American commerce.”

CBP conducts operations at ports of entry throughout the United States, and regularly screens arriving international passengers and cargo for narcotics, weapons, and other restricted or prohibited products. CBP strives to serve as the premier law enforcement agency enhancing the Nation’s safety, security, and prosperity through collaboration, innovation, and integration.

Last modified: 
June 26, 2020