FREEPORT, Texas -- Two Texas Department Criminal Justice sergeants picking up a banana donation uncovered something strange - about $18 million worth of cocaine hidden inside.
"Their trafficking methods are always changing," said DEA Special Agent Wendell Campbell.
Campbell shared pictures of heroin hidden inside a working car battery, fentanyl concealed in a spare tire and 14,000 pounds of marijuana in a melon shipment.
Then on Friday, $18 million worth of cocaine was found inside boxes of ripe bananas after a Freeport business offered two pallets as a donation to the Scott Unit, according to Jeremy Desel, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman.
"One of the sergeants noticed one of the boxes didn't seem quite right. Looked a little further, removed that box off one of the pallets, looked inside and saw something extraordinarily suspicious. (It) raised a red flag to the customs officials, who started an investigation," Desel explained.
There were 45 boxes containing not only the bananas, but also 540 kilos of cocaine with an estimated street value of nearly $18 million. U.S. Customs and DEA agents responded and seized the drugs.
"It's a very significant seizure," said Campbell.
She explained the finds are called "cover loads," which are illegal drugs hidden in loads of legitimate goods and used by traffickers to move drugs into the country.
The banana load got only so far before it was intercepted by two alert officers, Desel said.
"Our correctional officers and supervisory correctional officers are trained to notice things out of place that don't seem quite right," Desel said. "They're doing their jobs, not just on our units, but somewhere else, and they found something good today."
U.S. Customs did not respond to a request seeking comment. The business that offered the donation also did not comment.