An ingenious drug-smuggling operation run by a Mexican drug cartel was uncovered Thursday when U.S. authorities seized a shipment of marijuana packages that were painted to look like watermelons.
The shipment of fake melons was on its way down Interstate 19 in Arizona late Thursday when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stopped the tractor at a checkpoint near Tucson, Fox News reported.
The driver said he was transporting watermelons, but upon further inspection officials realized the innocent fruit was really bundles of weed artfully painted green to look like watermelons.
"These criminals use a lot of unique ways to try to conceal their narcotics," Bryan Flowers, a Tucson CBP agent, told the station. "We've seen individuals use false compartments in the seats of gas tanks. We've also found marijuana in tractor trailers here before."
It was not immediately clear where the tractor came from. It was able to make it across the border from Mexico when it was stopped south of Tucson. An X-ray agents used to inspect the packages exposed the contraband inside.
Officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration took possession of the hoax fruit and the driver was taken into custody.
DEA is in the process of confirming the street value and weight of the drugs. But officials estimated the pot to be worth well over $1 million, Fox News reported.
Flowers told Fox News that other smugglers have tried to pass off pot as real fruit.
CBP found 9,500 pounds of weed stuffed inside real watermelons in April 2010.
Two years before that, 5,000 pounds of weed was recovered in Nogales thanks to a K-9 that was able to pick up the scent.
Thursday's drug bust came the same day CBP agents at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey came across $52,000 worth of cocaine baked inside cookies hidden in the luggage of a Guatemalan man who is now in custody.