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CBP reveals how cocaine corn flakes were sniffed out in Cincinnati

Cocaine-frosted corn flakes were shipped from Peru and en route to Hong Kong

Newest episode of Long-Haul Crime Log podcast delves into how customs agents in Ohio intercepted a shipment of cereal with a special frosting — cocaine. (Image: Josh Roden/FreightWaves)

On Feb. 13, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Cincinnati were checking a shipment of corn flakes from Peru when suddenly Bico, a narcotics K-9, alerted agents that something was amiss.

The corn flakes were frosted with something besides sugar – they were coated with cocaine. In all, agents would find about 44 pounds of cocaine-coated corn flakes, worth about $2.8 million. 

The cocaine corn flakes were en route to a private residence in Hong Kong when they were seized at an express consignment facility near Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, said Steve Bansbach, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

A graphic illustration of a box of of cocaine cereal to illustrate an article about the interception of a shipment of cocaine cornflakes.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Cincinnati intercepted 44 pounds of cocaine hidden in a shipment of corn flakes from Peru. (Image: Josh Roden/FreightWaves)

“The reason the shipment from Peru passed through Cincinnati is because the airport is near a major logistics hub for international cargo carriers such as DHL, FedEx, UPS,” Bansbach told FreightWaves.

“The cereal shipment was found at an express consignment operations hub. These express consignment hubs are large mailing conglomerates. You have FedEx, UPS, DHL, they operate these hubs, and there is a big express consignment facility near,” he said.

Bansbach said he could not discuss which city in Peru the shipment originated or whose address in Hong Kong the drugs were being sent.

“It’s not known if the cocaine corn flakes originated from a cartel or just an individual smuggler at this time,” Bansbach said. “We turn over all the information and documentation to Homeland Security Investigations. That is the investigating arm of the Department of Homeland Security. I believe their efforts lead to reaching out to overseas locations to let them know.”

Bansbach said CBP has officers who work at express consignment facilities inspecting shipments on a daily basis.

“Our officers are there nightly inspecting packages that come through and whether it be illicit drugs or counterfeit items, we see things on a daily basis,” he said. 

‘We’ve seen drugs hidden inside a tombstone’

Bansbach said smugglers will use anything to hide drugs in an attempt to sneak them past agents.

“As far as the oddity of finding drugs in corn flakes, we’ve seen … illicit drugs hidden in all sorts of things — in shoes, on spools of … cabling wire. We’ve seen drugs hidden inside a tombstone,” Bansbach said.

“We’ve seen it in bibs for children, like the little bibs you would buy for an infant, sewn into the lining. We’ve seen it inside toys. There’s many different things that they are trying because they think, ‘OK, well, they won’t find it this time,’” he said.

For his part in the case, Bico probably received a special treat, according to Bansbach.

“I’m sure Bico got some sort of treat. We have 328 ports of entry here in the U.S., and we have canines in a whole lot of locations, whether they’re narcotic detection dogs or agricultural dogs or larger breeds that work shipments,” he said.

“All these dogs are very, very well trained. We do take very good care of them. When they do find something, they do get recognition. I don’t know necessarily what, but I’m sure Bico maybe got an ice cream,” Bansbach said. 

More on the cocaine corn flakes shipment on Long Haul Crime Log

Hear more about the the case on the latest episode of the FreightWaves true crime podcast, Long-Haul Crime Log. Find episodes subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or search for it on your preferred podcast provider.  

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]