From stripper heels to bananas: A rough and dirty guide to creative drug smuggling

From stripper heels to bananas: A rough and dirty guide to creative drug smuggling

VicesOctober 02, 2018 By Will Brendza

The flow of drugs in America is a never-ending one. It’s a constant stream of coke, marijuana, heroin, meth and prescription drugs that the government does their very best to limit, seize and destroy.

But they can’t catch everything. And while documents like the DEA’s Drug Threat Assessment boast about confiscating up to 2 million pounds of narcotics a year, their success in confiscating illegal substances being smuggled across our borders may only be a drop in the bucket as far as what’s making it through to us, the consumers.

Which, seems pretty likely once you start digging into the various ways drug smugglers are trying to transport this precious and dangerous cargo across our border. These guys are creative. After all, they’re putting their lives on the line when they’re moving quantity. You bet your ass they’re going to put some brainpower behind how they’re hiding it.

When DEA agents make a bust, they’ll proudly take photos with the drugs they seized – like fishermen posing with their day’s catch. But just like on the ocean, for every fish they catch, there’s a bigger one out there. A lot of them actually, all swimming past while those agents pose for their picture.

And, on top of that, every time they catch a drug mule using some new, previously-unknown method for stashing and shifting drugs, a new even-cleverer method is born. It’s adaptation, baby. Survival of the fittest. Their efforts to stop drugs from getting into America are not only futile, but they are making drug smugglers smarter, more creative and better at their jobs.

Darwin would be proud.

So, let’s take a moment to review some of the more out-of-the-box, unconventional ways in which these smugglers have tried getting things over the border over the years. Because, they deserve recognition for their efforts – after all, no one else is giving these smuggler-artists credit for their craft.

(Disclaimer: this is not meant to be a guide or source of inspiration for any aspiring drug mules out there. It is only a review of our favorite, known methods … however, we can’t stop you from getting ideas.)

1. Blow and Bananas – It’s not often that one finds $18 million worth of anything in a bunch of bananas. But, that’s exactly what the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found in September of 2018, when they picked up a palate of bananas that had been donated to the Wayne Scott Unit prison. Beneath the neatly stacked bunches of Dole fruit, agents discovered 54 packages of blow. Who donated these special nanners to the prison? No one knows. And it’s doubtful they ever will…

2. Cocaine Jesus – Whoever’s idea it was to hide cocaine in framed portraits of the lord and savior, must have thought it was a brilliant plan. But, as it turns out, even Jesus H. Christ himself won’t save you or your drugs from the prying eyes and noses of American DEA agents.

3. Horse Puppies – In 2006 during a raid of a farm in Colombia, six Labrador puppies were discovered, each of them packed with about 6.6 pounds of liquid heroine stitched into their stomachs. This is a sick and growing strategy among drug traffickers, not dissimilar to human “swallowers” which are often used for the same purpose. Unfortunately, surgically implanting drugs into a young dog’s belly is not good for their chances of survival. Three of the six puppies died from infections after the drugs were removed – adding three more needless casualties to the American War on Drugs.

4. K-Holy Water – He was just an innocent man of faith traveling back into the U.S. with, what he told officers, were just jugs containing “holy water”. And, from his perspective, he may not have been lying… because, as it turned out, the bottles were actually full of liquid ketamine.

5. Some Seriously High Heels – In Australia, an American woman was caught smuggling somewhere in the neighborhood of 756 grams of cocaine into the country in the heels of her shoes. The hollowed-out stripper-style high heels were packed to capacity.

6. HOT Tamales – Don’t forget to check your tamales in with customs when you are traveling into or out of the country. Especially if they are full of coke. In 2014 CBP officers at the George Bush airport in Houston stopped a man to check out his savory cargo, because he’d failed to check his tamales in with customs. Inside of those Mexican delicacies, they discovered seven ounces of coke and promptly arrested the snack smuggler.

7. Narco Subs – Not all drug smugglers have access to these kinds of high tech resources (only the successful ones). But according to the DEA, self-propelled drug smuggling submarines are on the rise. And some of these watercrafts are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which gives you an idea for what kind of return they must be making…

It’s an arms race, this business of smuggling drugs. Traffickers get clever, the police wizen up to their games, bust them, and then they get even cleverer – even more creative. It’s a never-ending cycle, an upward spiral that starts with bananas and ends with full on drug subs. What will they come out with next?

That’s up to the DEA to figure out. And apparently, the best way to do that, according to Special Agent Wade Sparks, staff coordinator for the DEA’s office of National Media Affairs, is good old-fashioned police work. Same as it’s always been.

“We like to think outside the box, but then at the same time old fashioned police work works well in those situations as well. You’re typical thing of surveillance, informants, wiretaps, those kinds of things are usually the weaknesses in any organization,” Sparks explained in an interview.

Cutting edge stuff. It’s no wonder we’ve got such a reliable supply of narcotics in this country.

So, while criminals continue to get ever-more-creative, cops carry on like they always have. And every year the number of drugs they confiscate goes up – but the question arises: is that because their “old-fashioned police work” is getting better at stopping drugs from getting into the country?

Or is it because there’s simply more coming over, more for them to catch, and logically, more making it through?