Border Patrol Bust Nets 41 Pounds Of Heroin Hidden With Tomatoes

By Keri Blakinger 04/05/18

The seized drugs are valued at just over $1.6 million. 

Red tomatoes at a vegetable processing factory.

You say tomato, I say ton of heroin. 

Border Patrol agents in Texas busted a tractor-trailer trying to cross the border with 41 pounds of heroin hidden inside a supposed shipment of tomatoes. 

The 1998 Freightliner was stopped for inspection as it entered the Pharr International Bridge cargo facility on March 28, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Agents referred the truck for secondary inspection and used a drug-sniffing dog to uncover the presence of nearly 41 pounds of smack wrapped up in tightly bound packages and hidden away with the cargo.

The seized drugs are valued at just over $1.6 million. The case was turned over to Homeland Security for further investigation.

This isn’t the first time that enterprising smugglers have used tomatoes to conceal contraband. In late 2010, Border Patrol seized almost 5,000 pounds of pot hidden in a shipment of green tomatoes. 

An X-ray inspection detected something amiss as the tractor-trailer made its way through an inspection point in Arizona. Authorities called in a drug dog and started unloading the pallets of vegetables for a closer look. Eventually, they uncovered 210 bales of marijuana weighing 4,984 pounds secreted away in the produce. The estimated value of the drugs was just over $4.2 million. 

"We're out here every day working to keep our country and our way of life safe," Port Director Guadalupe Ramirez said in a statement at the time. "As long as the smugglers try to get drugs and other contraband past us, we'll be here to stop them."

Generally, vegetables—and occasionally fruits—are a popular smuggling ruse. In 2017, a drug dog uncovered 5,754 packages of weed hidden with heads of lettuce. The haul totaled around 3,700 pounds of pot valued at more than $740,000.

Also last year, Border Patrol stopped a shipment of 3,947 pounds of “alleged marijuana” badly disguised to look like limes. The Jan. 30 seizure—from a 2001 Freightliner trailer at the Pharr International Bridge—netted 34,764 faux fruits valued at more than $789,000. 

“This is an outstanding interception of narcotics. Our CBP officers continue to excel in their knowledge of smuggling techniques which allows them to intercept these kinds of attempts to introduce narcotics into our country,” Port Director Efrain Solis Jr said in a statement at the time.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.