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Customs officials seize cheese wheels stuffed with cocaine at Mexico border

Nearly 18 pounds of cocaine caught
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Posted at 2:32 PM, Jul 23, 2023

EL PASO, Texas (CNN) — When customs officials encountered a pickup truck transporting four large wheels of cheese from Mexico into the Presidio Port of entry in Texas Thursday, they had a hunch something was off.

An X-ray scan of the cheese revealed “anomalies,” which upon further inspection turned out to be 17.8 pounds of cocaine concealed inside the wheels, Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

Officials seized the drugs and the truck. The 22-year-old driver, a US citizen who legally declared the cheese, will face charges for the failed smuggling attempt, the agency said.

“Smugglers will sometimes try to conceal contraband in items that appear innocent to deflect suspicion,” Daniel Mercado, director of Customs and Border Protection at the Presidio Port said. “The thorough and extensive inspections performed by CBP officers stopped this unusual drug load from reaching its intended destination.”

Smugglers have gone to bizarre lengths to bring drugs into the US using everyday objects, car batteries, gas tanks, drones and more, according to Customs and Border Protection.

Customs officers in El Paso seized 146 pounds of cocaine hidden in an ice cream maker last month. Officials at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport found $450,000 worth of cocaine inside the wheels of a woman’s wheelchair last November.

Combined by weight, seizures of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, and marijuana increased 7% from May to June, according to Customs and Border Protection.

The agency says it is ramping up efforts to disrupt the movement of drugs into the US, in part by surging resources to points of entry, where drugs are often smuggled in through vehicles.

Under a new operation launched in June, officials have seized more than 1,500 pounds of fentanyl and over 23,000 pounds of other narcotics like cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin, the agency said.