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Cincinnati CBP Reveals Concealment Methods, Unique Seizures

Release Date: 
July 23, 2018

CINCINNATI—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agriculture specialists stationed in Cincinnati routinely encounter unique concealment methods employed by smugglers of all types. From dangerous narcotics, fake IDs, illegal steroids and smuggled cash, to agricultural pests and invasive or endangered species, the officers and specialists have seen it all.

Freddy sits on top of this cable drum which contained more than 1,000 lbs. of marijuana.
Freddy sits on top of this cable drum 
which contained more than 1,000
lbs. of marijuana. CBP K9s are another
line of defense helping protect the
United States.

Nationwide, CBP agriculture specialists discovered more than 352 pests and 4,638 quarantine materials and CBP officers seized more than 5,863 pounds of narcotics on any given day in fiscal year 2017.

“Our officers are very familiar with the many ways smugglers try to evade inspection,” said Cincinnati Port Director Ron Cloud. “Officers learn to think creatively about where things might be hidden because drugs can be anywhere—inside books, auto parts, spools of ribbon, crepe makers, study binders, food, statues, photo frames—if there is space inside an item it could contain something illegal.”

Marijuana may be in soap bottles, wedged into CD cases, and tucked between folded bedsheets. Calculators and books may hold passports, and magazines might contain thousands of dollars or credit cards destined to fund illicit activity. Sometimes the commodity shipped will be completely legitimate but drugs are injected into the box flaps of the packaging.

Canned goods could contain bottles of what appears to be antibiotics but testing reveals they contain synthetic marijuana. Tortellini packages could hold prohibited lamb meat instead of pasta. Car mirrors and backpacks can be engineered with secret compartments that hold cocaine.

Often, enforcement areas overlap. There could be marijuana or federal noxious weeds in tea cans, and bags of candy could contain marijuana-laced sweets or prohibited pork, all packaged to look like innocuous treats. Sometimes the shipment is prohibited for multiple reasons, such as seeds and cocaine smuggled together in a finished wood product.

“Our agriculture specialists are trained to understand the current agriculture risks and disease status of every country in the world,” said CBP Supervisory Agriculture Specialist Barbara Hassan. “Any plant or animal product might be carrying a disease or a pest that could seriously damage the agriculture industry and our native plants and animals in the United States.”

Since CBP officers and specialists screen all shipments and passengers that enter the U.S., they work closely with other government agencies to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens and wildlife.

Fifty pound boxes labeled as “ceramic tea set,” “grinding wheel disc,” or “clothing,” could contain nothing but bags full of live blood clams. Blood clams are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because these animals can live in anoxic environments and therefore can pass along diseases such as typhoid and hepatitis to those handling or consuming them.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) works with CBP to prevent the introduction of invasive species like live mitten crabs found manifested as “Trousers,” “Shoes,” and “Clothes.” Mitten crabs are considered a global threat and are listed on the Global Species Database’s list of “100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species” because of their disastrous impact on native habitats.

Animals in the exotic pet trade make up a significant portion of the illegal wildlife trade in the U.S., and Cincinnati officers and specialists have rescued live tortoises, centipedes, and tarantulas. They have also found primate skulls, crocodilian heads, and many smuggled animals, usually reptiles, which did not survive the long trip.

CBP canines play a significant role in foiling smuggling attempts. Narcotics detector dog Freddy has found a multitude of hidden narcotics, such as cocaine inside a steel propeller shaft and more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana packed inside cable drums.

Nuggett, an agriculture detector dog, stays busy sniffing out prohibited plant and animal products. Some of his seizures include a suitcase full of fresh fruit and the remainders of pangolins. Pangolins are scale-covered mammals, some species of which are critically endangered because of the unsustainable and illegal trade in their scales.

“Cincinnati CBP screens incoming passengers and freight from all over the world,” said Port Director Cloud. “Our officers and specialists are highly trained and work around the clock to protect the people, agriculture, and wildlife of the United States.”

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: 
July 30, 2018