Pubdate: Sun, 09 Jan 2005
Source: Bellingham Herald (WA)
Copyright: 2005 Bellingham Herald
Author: Katie N. Johannes


A hockey bag thrown into a raspberry field may some day be frowned upon by 
drug smugglers for being too obvious.

As U.S. border protection agencies improve their smuggling savvy, illegal 
importers have pursued more creative ways to sneak drugs past them.

Marijuana stashed in various semi truck shipments has accounted for some of 
the largest busts by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Whatcom County 
land ports.

Here's a look at some of the more inventive methods drug smugglers have 
used in the past few years and some of the biggest marijuana seizures of 2004:

. Jan. 16, 2002, 1,400 pounds of potent B.C. Bud in a beer delivery truck. 
Inspectors opened the back of the truck and were startled by the strong 
smell of marijuana that wafted out. They found 34 large hockey bags mingled 
with a shipment of beer bottles.

n January 2003, 166 pounds of marijuana and $180,000 in cash stashed in a 
semi trailer carrying live bears across the border at the Pacific Highway 
truck crossing in Blaine.

A drug-sniffing dog alerted inspectors to the stash that was packaged in 
vacuum-sealed bags and stuffed into the trailer frame and false walls of 
the bears' wooden den.

May 2003, 12 pallets of B.C. Bud, weighing 1,309 pounds, hidden within a 
shipment of pine shavings. The packer had stuffed plastic bags of marijuana 
into the shavings and stacked them in the center row of the semi.

September 2003, 2,804 pounds of marijuana in a semi-load of compressed 
bails of rags. Bags of marijuana were packed into boxes, surrounded with 
the rags, cinched down and wrapped up.

September 2003, a tip led officers to 1,893 pounds of marijuana packed into 
55-gallon drums of frozen raspberry puree.

May 2004, inspectors noticed an "irregularity" in the bed of a pickup truck 
at a Blaine border crossing. They removed the rear bumper and cut into the 
pickup bed where they found a compartment holding about 408 pounds of 

The same weekend, inspectors found 101,704 tablets of Ecstasy in a box that 
was welded into the engine compartment.

Sept. 9, 2004, a patrolling officer noticed someone who appeared to be 
scouting for officers on the U.S. side of the border west of Sumas. The 
person walked back into Canada and soon after drove a pickup into the U.S. 
Surprised by the patrolling officer, the driver tried to make a U-turn and 
drive back into Canada, but the pickup got stuck in the mud, so the driver 
got out and ran, evading capture.

The would-be smuggler had left 681 pounds of B.C. Bud, again in hockey 
bags, in the truck bed.

Getting caught importing drugs carries serious penalties.

Former Customs and Border Protection Officer Cory W. Whitfield is facing 
five to 40 years in federal prison for attempting to deliver 536 pounds of 
B.C. Bud across the border north of Lynden on Sept. 13, and successfully 
delivering the drug on another occasion.
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