146 lbs. of cocaine seized at border after being hidden in ice cream maker, officials say


(EL PASO, Texas) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection saw right through a commercial refrigeration unit that, instead of being used to make ice cream, had been stuffed with more than 100 pounds of cocaine, officials said Thursday.

Customs officers in El Paso, Texas, seized 146 pounds of the narcotic after discovering it had been bundled up and hidden in the walls of the ice cream maker and then detected by X-ray technology at a federal border crossing on Monday, according to a CBP news release.

One official estimated the street value of the drugs at $1.2 million.

Authorities rely on X-ray technology to quickly inspect large volumes of commercial traffic through U.S. ports of entry. Officers are responsible for delicately balancing security concerns with the need to keep commercial trade flowing.

On Monday, officials took a closer look at a red pick-up truck crossing at the Bridge of the Americas, CBP said. When the X-ray revealed an abnormal image pattern, CBP relied on the help of a trained dog to sniff out the drugs. The cocaine was found in 56 tightly packed bundles.

A 43-year-old man, a Mexican national, was driving the truck and was sent to the custody of Texas police to face charges, according to CBP.

“The vast majority of commercial shipments CBP officers process pose little risk. However seizures like this remind us all that drugs can be concealed almost anywhere and that we must remain constantly vigilant,” acting CBP El Paso Port Director Luis Mejia said in a statement.

Imported products valued at billions of dollars are processed through U.S. ports of entry each day, according to CBP.

Additionally, more than half a million travelers arrive through land ports of entry on a daily basis.

With roughly 33,400 pounds seized so far this budget year, CBP is detecting less cocaine compared to last year. Unlike cannabis, cocaine and fentanyl can pack a deadly punch in smaller packages.

“The intelligence and investigative work being conducted by DHS Agencies and with our federal partners to disrupt the fentanyl supply chain is unprecedented,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

Over the past two years, the department seized more fentanyl than the previous five years, Mayorkas said.

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday announced two new anti-fentanyl operations aimed at disrupting both the production supply chain and trafficking routes of the ultra-deadly synthetic opioid.

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