Variety of contraband intercepted at U.S. border
U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors have stopped several types of prohibited items from entering the country in recent days, according to the agency.
Officers in Seattle intercepted several large shipments of toy Aqua Dots in the past three weeks. Aqua Dots is the popular toy that the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled a couple months ago because versions made in China contained a chemical that metabolizes into the equivalent of the date rape drug. The chemical, butanediol, converts to gamma hydroxybutyrate, which can cause agitation, respiratory depression, vomiting, unconsciousness, coma and death.
Several children in the United States and other countries became seriously ill after ingesting the product, which garnered a lot of attention in the media as an example of gaps in the import safety system.
In early November, the North American distributor asked its customers to stop the sale of Aqua Dots and joined in an immediate recall of all Aqua Dot toys imported since April 2007. However, some shipments were already in route to the United States or in foreign trade zones.
CBP officers targeted the shipments for examination prior to their arrival in Seattle aboard the container ships Wan He and Cosco Xiamen. The Aqua Dots were seized coming out of the Foreign Trade Zone in Seattle. These shipments had been previously entered into the trade zone prior to the ban.
The Seattle seizure follows recent CBP Aqua Dots seizures in International Falls, Minnesota, Norfolk, Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia.
Meanwhile, U.S. inspectors in Atlanta confiscated a large shipment of counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags worth more than $4 million at retail prices and $478,000 at street value, CBP said last week.
Stepped up enforcement of intellectual property crimes has resulted in a string of seizures for branded products since the summer.
For the second time in a week, the agency announced it intercepted opium being smuggled through the UPS main sort center at Louisville International Airport in Kentucky. Officers stationed at the package hub discovered seven pounds of opium hidden in four picture frames. A review of the shipping documents prompted an X-ray exam of the shipment and led to the discovery of the drugs.
As previously reported, inspectors seized more than six kilograms of opium concealed in attach'-style bags at the UPS facility on Dec. 13.
Authorities stopped a Canadian tractor-trailer at the northern border port of Sumas, Wash., on Dec. 15 that carried $373,000 of currency and 127 pounds of marijuana in a false roof compartment. The truck was carrying a shipment of aluminum railing components bound for California. It was referred to a mobile gamma ray inspection, which detected an unusual roof area. A manual inspection revealed the hydraulic-operated compartment behind some shelving.
The contraband had apparently been sprayed with oleoresin capsicum (OC spray) and vinegar in an attempt to defeat inspection by CBP canine units.
The agency also seized 460 pounds of marijuana hidden in a false roof compartment of a tractor-trailer entering the country at the Lynden, Wash., border crossing. The driver, Marc Simon Bessette, 30, a Canadian citizen from Surrey, British Columbia, was arrested and faces federal prosecution.
On the southern border, officers confiscated 789-pounds of marijuana found in a box truck shipment of pots and vases at the Bridge of the Americas crossing in Laredo, Texas. No arrests were made.