(CNN) – US Customs and Border Protection officers have seized nearly $3 million worth of methamphetamine hidden in small packages within a shipment of onions at a commercial facility in San Diego, the agency said.
Federal officers at the Otay Mesa port-of-entry facility last Sunday encountered a 46-year-old man who was driving a tractor trailer containing a large shipment “manifested as onions,” Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in a news release Friday.
During an initial inspection of the vehicle, one officer directed the driver and shipment to a more intensive examination conducted by the agency’s K-9 team, the release said.
One of the detector dogs alerted officers to the shipment, who discovered 1,197 packages of meth — roughly 1,336 pounds — worth an estimated street value of $2.9 million, according to CBP.
The packages, which were mixed with the onion shipment in sacks, “were shaped into small globes with a white covering, designed to blend into the onions they were hidden with,” the release said.
Officers arrested the driver, an unidentified Mexico citizen, for the alleged narcotic smuggling attempt and turned him over to the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) for “further disposition,” according to CBP. They also seized the tractor, trailer and narcotics, the agency said.
“This was not only a clever attempt to try and smuggle in narcotics, one I haven’t seen before, but also time-consuming to wrap narcotics into these small packages, designed to look like onions,” said Sidney Aki, CBP director of field operations in San Diego.
“These efforts show how effective our officers are, and as a response, the lengths drug trafficking organizations are willing to go to as they try to smuggle narcotics into the US,” the statement continued. “While we have certainly seen narcotics in produce before, it’s unusual for us to see this level of detail in the concealment.”