Nearly 3,000 pounds of methamphetamine found in carrot shipment at U.S.-Mexico border

It's a good idea to wash carrots after they're pulled from the ground because they might have some dirt on them. They don't typically come with more than a ton of methamphetamine, but you can never be too careful.

A 44-year-old truck driver is in federal custody after he allegedly tried to cross into the U.S. from Mexico at the Otay Mesa border checkpoint in San Diego with roughly 3,000 pounds of meth hidden amid a large shipment of carrots.

The driver arrived in a commercial tractor trailer just before noon on March 17 with a valid border crossing card and a shipping manifest that said he was hauling carrots, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a news release.

But a secondary inspection revealed suspicious packages hidden underneath the bunches of carrots — exactly 574 packages that tested positive for methamphetamine, according to officials.

The meth and the truck were seized, and the driver, who was not identified, was turned over to the Department of Homeland Security for further investigation, officials said. The seizure was part of an ongoing operation at the border, dubbed Operation Apollo, focused on stopping fentanyl and other synthetic drugs from being smuggled into the U.S.

Read more: How a Mennonite farmer became a drug suspect

The carrot caper is the just latest chapter in a saga of creative means to get illegal drugs over the southern border — albeit the one richest in Vitamin A.

Agents at Otay Mesa found over 400 pounds of cocaine stashed in a shipment of cucumbers in September with a street value of over $5 million, Customs and Border Protection said in a news release.

There was the spicy incident when border agents found nearly 2 tons of methamphetamine and cocaine — valued at $10.4 million — buried within dozens of vats of jalapeño paste in December.

But smugglers do not disguise their contraband just in produce.

An intrepid smuggler was arrested at the San Ysidro border crossing in February 2022 after agents found 52 lizards and snakes hidden in his clothing. Agents found the man's scaly, squirmy passengers in small bags hidden in his jacket, pants pockets and groin area, according to CBP. .

Read more: Opinion: Many Americans believe migrants bring fentanyl across the border. That's wrong and dangerous

In June 2022, border agents found around 27 pounds of crystal meth in three child booster car seats after stopping a family of six at a checkpoint in Murrieta. The father, a U.S. citizen, was arrested while the mother and the children were released.

In February, the U.S. Justice Department arrested 17 people in a scheme to smuggle fentanyl into the U.S. inside fire extinguishers.

One of the suspects arrested in the federal investigation, Toniel Baez-Duarte, was already in custody after being arrested in connection with a drug-fueled massacre of six in El Mirage in the unincorporated area of Adelanto.

Otay Mesa Port of Entry Director Rosa Hernandez applauded agents for catching the shipment.

“While facilitating lawful trade and travel, our officers steadfastly combat the trafficking of dangerous drugs at our borders," Hernandez said in a statement.

Officials estimate the street value of the methamphetamine is in the millions of dollars. There was no estimate on how much the carrots would sell for.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.