383 Pounds of Cocaine Found in Shipment of Decorative Gourds

Homeland Security found a lot of cocaine in a shipment of pumpkins and squash. It's officially fall!

Today is the first day of fall. So what better time for the Department of Homeland Security to unveil a recent seizure: About 383 pounds of cocaine, found at the Port of Philadelphia. To make things even more autumn-y, the cocaine was found in a shipment of pumpkins and squash. Yes, the McSweeney’sDecorative Gourd Season” article has finally come true.

The container of pumpkins and squash came on the M/V Santa Maria, which arrived in Philadelphia from Costa Rica last Thursday. The drugs were destined for The Bronx. John Kelleghan, special agent in charge for homeland security investigations Philadelphia, began a press conference about the seizure by saying it was “not connected with the Pope’s visit.”

Not every container that comes into the Port of Philadelphia is inspected for drugs. The DEA Philadelphia Field Division got a tip, however, that drugs were located in the ship. Field agents inspected the shipment and eventually found the drugs in the shipment. No arrests were made.

“The cocaine was expertly disguised in a shipment of squash and pumpkins and because of the coordinated efforts of the law enforcement agencies you see here today, that it was found, seized and never reach the streets of our country,” Kelleghan said. “This seizure is a unique opportunity for us to actually show the public the efforts of that daily coordination.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Officials said a joint investigation continues.

“This was a joint effort by everyone involved,” said Paul Nardella, the assistant port director for tactical operations in Philadelphia. “Because everyone involved actually got their hands dirty.” Nardella meant that literally: Agents literally had to dig through the boxes to find the cocaine laminated inside boxes of gourds.

The 383 pounds were the eighth-largest cocaine seizure in the history of the Port of Philadelphia. Officials at a press conference at the Customs House in Old City declined to answer how many drug seizures are made on average in Philadelphia, nor an average weight. Customs and Border Protection said on a typical day it seizes 10,327 pounds of drugs at (and between) the 328 ports of entry into the United States.

To view an archived video of today’s press conference, click here.

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