1,400 packages of meth weighing almost 6 tons and worth over $18 million found in squash shipment


(NEW YORK) -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in California have discovered more than 1,400 packages of methamphetamine worth over $18 million inside a shipment of squash, officials said.

The discovery happened early Monday morning at approximately 6:47 a.m. when CBP officers working at the Otay Mesa Commercial Facility in California encountered a 44-year-old man driving a commercial tractor-trailer with a shipment of squash, CBP officials said in a statement released on Wednesday detailing the seizure.

“The driver, a valid border crossing card holder, was referred for further examination by CBP officers along with the tractor-trailer and shipment,” CBP said. “In secondary, non-intrusive scanning technology was utilized to conduct a full scan of the tractor trailer. After examination, irregularities were observed and CBP officers requested a CBP human and narcotics detection canine. The canine team responded and alerted officers to the presence of narcotics.”

In total, CBP officers discovered 1,419 packages of methamphetamine concealed within the shipment of squash with the total weight of the narcotics being 11,469 pounds -- an estimated street value of $18,350,400, according to CBP.

“Our officers’ commitment to duty, excellence, and the safety of our nation is truly commendable. These results serve as an outstanding display of effectiveness in thwarting the illegal importation of narcotics,” stated Rosa E. Hernandez, Otay Mesa Area Port Director. “Their exceptional efforts truly embody the highest standards of service.”

CBP officers seized the narcotics, commercial tractor and the trailer. The driver was arrested and turned over to the custody of Homeland Security Investigation for further investigation.

These seizures are the result of Operation Apollo, CBP said, which is a “holistic counter-fentanyl effort that began on October 26, 2023 in southern California, and expanded to Arizona on April 10, 2024. Operation Apollo focuses on intelligence collection and partnerships, and utilizes local CBP field assets augmented by federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners to boost resources, increase collaboration, and target the smuggling of fentanyl into the United States.”

An estimated minimum of 150 people die, on average, every day from drug overdoses related to synthetic opioids derived from fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our officers’ commitment to duty, excellence, and the safety of our nation is truly commendable," stated Rosa E. Hernandez, Otay Mesa Area Port Director.

Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 6:41AM by Jon Haworth, ABC News Permalink