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Largest Cocaine Stash Found in Years at Philadelphia Port

Release Date: 
September 23, 2015

363 pounds of Cocaine Concealed in Cases of Costa Rican Fruit

PHILADELPHIA — Federal law enforcement authorities seized 363 pounds of cocaine concealed in cases of Costa Rican pumpkins and squash in Philadelphia on Thursday.

CBP discovered 363 pounds of cocaine concealed inside the box flaps of cases of Costa Rican pumpkins and squash in Philadelphia Sept. 17, 2015.
CBP discovered 363 pounds of cocaine
concealed inside the box flaps of cases
of Costa Rican pumpkins and squash
in Philadelphia Sept. 17, 2015.

The cocaine was shaped in 384 long, thin packages that were laminated to the inside of the fruit case box flaps.

Authorities made no arrests. An investigation continues.

The container of fruit arrived aboard the M/V Santa Maria and was destined to a distributor in the Bronx, N.Y.

 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers discovered the cocaine during a thorough inspection of the shipping container and its contents. Field tests confirmed the white, powdery substance as cocaine.

CBP officers worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which are continuing a joint investigation.

The cocaine weighed 164.7 kilograms or a little more than 363 pounds and has a street value of more than $6 million.

This is CBP’s eighth largest cocaine seizure in the Port of Philadelphia.

“This significant cocaine seizure illustrates how corroboration between partner law enforcement agencies keeps our communities safe,” said Susan Stranieri, CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “Narcotics interdiction remains a Customs and Border Protection enforcement priority. We’re pleased to have stopped this deadly shipment from entering the U.S.”

“The DEA Philadelphia Field Division received an investigative lead and information was passed to our counterparts at Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection that lead to the seizure of 165 kilograms of cocaine.  When law enforcement works together using all of our resources and removes such a substantial amount of cocaine from our streets, this is a major blow to the drug-trafficking organizations that operate in our area,” said Gary Tuggle, special agent in charge for DEA Philadelphia Division.

CBP Assistant Port Director Paul Nardella shows reporters where the cocaine was concealed during a media event in Philadelphia Sept. 23, 2015.
CBP Assistant Port Director Paul
Nardella shows reporters where the
cocaine was concealed during a media
event in Philadelphia Sept. 23, 2015.

“This is an immense amount of cocaine found cleverly stashed in the shipment of produce,” said John Kelleghan, HSI Philadelphia special agent in charge. “It’s a testament to our combined local and federal law enforcement efforts that we were able to find this shipment. With HSI’s transnational investigative network working with the DEA, we will continue to track down those who tried to smuggle these narcotics into the country.”

Along with CBP, HSI and the DEA, local law enforcement partners from the Pennsylvania Attorney General Office’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigations and the Nether Providence Township Police Department assisted with the seizure and investigation.

On a typical day, CBP seizes 10,327 pounds of drugs at and between our nation’s 328 ports of entry.

In addition to narcotics enforcement, CBP routinely conducts inspection operations on arriving and departing international flights and intercepts currency, weapons, prohibited agriculture products, and other illicit items. View additional enforcement priorities and stats at CBP Snapshot.

Learn more about CBP, ICE Homeland Security Investigations. and the DEA.

Last modified: 
January 16, 2018