Smuggling drugs has always been a risky and dangerous activity. Many people take this risk in hopes of hitting it big and not getting caught. To do this, people get creative and have figured out millions of different ways to try and sneak drugs into the country. However, Border Protection and Customs are always working just as tirelessly to stop this from happening. These are the top 10 most creative ways people have tried to smuggle drugs.
10 Breast Implants
In February 2016, German border officials arrested a Columbian woman at the Frankfurt airport in Germany bound from Columbia. She was found to be carrying 1 kilogram of cocaine hidden inside of her breast implants. The German officials found fresh scars below the women’s breasts indicating she had recently undergone surgery to have the drugs implanted. Shortly after being arrested, she was sent to a local hospital where doctors removed two 500 gram packages from her breasts each containing cocaine.
The Columbian woman admitted to smuggling these drugs citing that she was trying to provide for her three children back in Columbia. She said that the drugs were surgically implanted into her breasts by a Columbian doctor. German officials were shocked at this ingenious attempt to smuggle drugs, with German spokesperson Hans-Juergen Schmidt saying “This is the first case in Germany in which drugs have been smuggled in this fashion,”. The cocaine had an estimated street value of 200,000 euros and was bound to be transported to Spain through Germany.
9 In a Burrito
In May 2016, Customs and Border Protection officers arrested a woman from Nogales, Arizona at the Port of Nogales. The officers brought the 23-year-old Arizona woman in for an inspection when she crossed the Morley Pedestrian Gate. During this inspection, the officers found a white substance wrapped in a tortilla disguised as a burrito. It was later confirmed that the substance was Meth, and the woman was arrested. The drugs weighed in at over a pound and had an estimated street value of 3,000 dollars.
Though this was the first time the officers have seen someone try to smuggle drugs this way, they are used to people finding all sorts of weird spots to hide drugs. Just the following day, officers arrested a 43-year-old Mexican national at the Nogales land crossing. He was referred for a vehicle inspection where officers found nearly 24 pounds of cocaine and 10 pounds of meth hidden inside the trunk of his vehicle. The drugs had a combined estimated street value of 300,000 dollars.
8 In a Mr. Potato Head Toy
Mr. Potato head is a children’s toy made of a plastic potato with additional plastic attaching body parts. Enjoyed by children all around the world, this toy can be lots of fun. Although, in October 2007, the toy was used in an attempt to smuggle drugs. The toy was sent in a package departing Ireland heading to Australia. When scanning the package, Australian border officers were greeted with the smiling face of Mr. Potato Head. Upon opening up the toy, the officers found almost 10.5 ounces of ecstasy wrapped in a plastic bag.
The Australian Customs Service elevated the case to the federal police, but as the drugs were sent through the mail no arrests were made. In light of the situation, Australian Customs Director Post Karen Williams said: “Whilst this is one of the more unusual concealments that we have seen in recent times, people need to be aware that Customs officers are alert to unusual and often outlandish methods of concealment”. The Australian government is very strict on drug-related offences, and importing drugs carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
7 Inside Fruit
It seems that hiding drugs inside of food is a common theme among drug smugglers. In April 2017, 9 people were arrested for smuggling drugs inside of fresh pineapples. In a joint task force involving Portugal and Spain police, a drug shipping operation based out of Portugal was halted. The drug smugglers were hollowing out fresh pineapples and filling them with plastic bags containing cocaine. It was believed that the smugglers had been using this method for months undetected by Spanish authorities.
At the time of the bust over 1000 pineapples containing 745 kilograms of cocaine were seized. The drugs had an estimated street value of a whopping 22.4 million dollars. After this case made national headlines Spanish authorities began to intercept copycat shipments using the same packaging methods.
6 Inside Animals
In February 2006, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency arrested 22 Columbian nationals for attempting to smuggle heroin into the United States. Officials say that the men surgically implanted the drugs into puppies in hopes of evading detection. The men were able to bring over 20 kilograms into the United States by slitting open the puppies and inserting the drugs into their body cavities. Unfortunately, 3 puppies died from complications involving having the packages inserted into them. The estimated street value of the heroin was over 20 million dollars.
This method of concealment is similar to how smugglers use humans to smuggle drugs. People who transport drugs into a country are referred to as drug mules, and use a variety of methods of concealment when transporting them. The most common method used is inserting the drugs into their body, either through swallowing the drugs or surgically implanting them underneath the skin. This practice carries tremendous risk with thousands of drug mules dying each year by accidental overdoses.
5 Moulded Into a Cast
In March 2009, a 66-year-old Chilean man was arrested at the Barcelona airport in Spain for attempting to smuggle cocaine into Spain. The man attempted to pass through customs walking on crutches due to a casted broken leg. The man was escorted to have an x-ray done when Spanish authorities noticed discrepancies in the cast. It appeared that the cast wasn’t made out of a dense material like plaster, but rather a different type of material. The authorities performed a test to determine what material the cast was made of, and it turned positive for cocaine.
Upon further inspection of the man’s luggage, Spanish authorities found he was also carrying 6 beer cans and 2 hollowed out stools that had cocaine inside of them. After arriving at the hospital it was found that the man genuinely had a broken shin, and it is believed that he purposefully broke his shin so he could use the cast to smuggle drugs. He was found to be in possession of 11 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of over 500 thousand dollars.
4 Inside a Submarine
In September 2019, the United States Coast Guard and Columbian Naval assets captured a 40 foot long submarine in the Pacific Ocean bound for American soil. The Coast Guard found the submarine to be carrying 12,000 pounds of cocaine with a whopping estimated street value of 165 million dollars. 4 Columbian citizens were aboard the submarine during the seizure and were arrested. They have each been charged with 2 counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
This method of smuggling has become increasingly popular in the last several years. Submarines are extremely expensive and are typically only used by top drug smugglers working for cartels. In June 2018 the Coast Guard seized another submarine carrying 17,000 pounds of cocaine. Those are just 2 of the 14 drug smuggling vessels that have been intercepted by the Coast Guard that year. The 14 vessels that were intercepted held a combined total of 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana. They had a combined street value of over 569 million dollars.
3 Strapped to a Pidgeon
In May 2017, Kuwait officials apprehended a pigeon carrying drugs strapped to its back in a miniature backpack. The pigeon was found in Abdali close to the Iraqi border, A total of 178 pills containing ketamine were found on the pigeon. Ketamine is an anesthetic that is also commonly used as an illegal party drug. Customs officials had received information beforehand indicating that pigeons were being used to smuggle drugs, but this was the first time that officials had caught the bird in the act.
Although this may have been the first time Iraqi officials found pigeons carrying narcotics this isn’t the first time an incident like this has been reported. In 2017 guards at a Brazillian prison found a pigeon carrying a mobile phone. Since Roman times pigeons have been used to carry messages and other small objects. Pigeons have natural homing abilities making them a prime method to quickly relay information or transport small objects for up to hundreds of kilometres.
2 Using Drones
Over the past several years the use of recreational drones has skyrocketed. Because of this, smugglers have turned to use drones to transport drugs across borders without the hassle of security. The use of drones in smuggling has become a problem along the southwest border between Mexico and the United States. The United States Department of Border Protection estimates that 10s of drones pass through the border undetected every day bringing in an unknown amount of contraband.
In January 2018 a 25-year-old man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for flying a drone across the border between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. The drone was seized by United States Customs officials and contained 13 pounds of methamphetamine. Since this, there has also been over 500 other people prosecuted for illegally transporting narcotics through the border by drone. The maximum penalty for smuggling narcotics across the border in the United States is life imprisonment.
1 Inside Art
In January 2017, the United States Customs and Border Protection department intercepted a statue of a snail in the mail destined for Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon breaking the statue open the officials discovered a plastic bag containing over 50 pounds of methamphetamine. The package was shipped from Mexico and was labelled as “Mexican stone crafts”. The drugs had an estimated street value of 100,000 dollars. There has been no arrests in the case to date.
Drugs can also be hidden inside other forms of art, such as paintings. In March 2020, United States Custom and Border Protection officials discovered more drugs being smuggled through religious paintings. A crate full of 8 paintings was seized, and upon drilling into the picture frames it was discovered they were filled with methamphetamine. Officials found a total of 9.2 pounds distributed between the paintings with an estimated street value of 16,000 dollars.