U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana concealed in a container of clay pottery on a ship attempting to enter the Port of Charleston, the agency announced this week.
Mike Balero, spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said that on March 17, officers discovered anomalies in a container while scanning it with an X-ray device. After further examination, they found 1,440 packages of marijuana that totaled 2,075 pounds and had a street value of about $1.4 million, he said.
The shipment was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a Monday news release from Customs and Border Protection. Through interagency coordination, Immigration and Customs officials arrested five subjects, the release stated.
The release did not give the suspects' names, and calls to Immigration and Customs were not returned. In the release, Kenneth Smith, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs' investigations office in Atlanta said, "this attempt to traffic more than a ton of marijuana shows the brazen disregard of the law by these criminals." But he also stated that the seizure demonstrates how both agencies work closely together to ensure that ports are safe.
Pam Zaresk, area port director for Customs and Border Protection, said the shipment originated in Mexico.
Officers in Charleston regularly find contraband coming into the port, she said. Some of it is narcotics and firearms. But it also includes items that violate consumer product safety, agriculture and intellectual property regulations, she said.
Customs and Border Protection enforces laws from 40 different agencies, she said.
Zaresk said the ship carrying the container with marijuana was determined to pose a potential risk. Officials screened the container on-board with a non-intrusive X-ray. That raised further concern, so the container was moved to the Centralized Examination Station at the Charleston Freight Station off Clements Ferry Road and scanned with a more intensive X-ray.
After that, officials opened and searched the container, she said.