We’ve all heard stories of unlucky schmucks forced to swallow condoms of cocaine and cross the border, but that’s actually tame compared to some of the more out-there ideas that drug cartels have hatched. In this feature, we’ll unearth ten completely insane ways that criminals have moved drugs from place to place. These are, by far, the craziest drug smuggling schemes ever.
Drug cartels are known for being well armed, but this is ridiculous. Police in Mexicali confiscated a bizarre homemade mechanism consisting of a metal tank, a length of PVC pipe and an old car engine that was used to launch packages of weed over the Mexican border. The “marijuana cannon,” as they dubbed it, used pneumatic pressure to vault 30-pound cans of drugs as far as 500 feet to be picked up by runners on the other side.
Disguising drugs is an important part of smuggling, and crooks have tried hundreds of different methods to sneak illegal substances past the eyes of the law. One of the most bizarre happened in Cape May, New Jersey, where prisoners attempted to get high off of pages from a coloring book. The opiate drug Suboxone was dissolved into a paste and painted on several pages from the innocuous-looking book, which also had crayon scrawls and “Hi, Daddy” written in it. A tip to prison authorities led them to test the paper and discover the illicit chemical within.
The vast majority of illegal drug traffic across the Mexican border comes by land. But as DEA agents crack down on mules in tunnels, the wild blue yonder is looking more and more attractive. In 2011, reports started to come in of cartel forces using ultralight aircraft, powered by an engine equivalent to a lawnmower, to ferry 250-pound packages of drugs into Arizona, Texas and California, dropping them at designated spots and immediately heading home. Since the planes are so small and fly so slow, it’s difficult to pick them up by radar.
Getting drugs through the official checkpoints of the U.S./Mexico border can be incredibly difficult. But the massive fence along the rest of the boundary is virtually impassable by land vehicle. That’s why cunning cartel operatives developed the “ramp truck,” a special vehicle that brings an angled ramp right up to the wall so the smuggler’s vehicle can pick up speed and jump, "Dukes of Hazzard" style, right over into America. On the way back, of course, the car has no drugs so can just pass over the border unmolested. In November 2012, a smuggler’s SUV got stuck atop the fence, forcing the driver to bail out before the border patrol caught him.
The sheer volume of cocaine that comes out of the jungles of Colombia is enough to make traditional smuggling methods unworkable. So what did the geniuses of the cartels do? Built their own submarines. Narco-subs were first spotted in 1993 and have continued to be used to the present day. The boats can carry as much as 180 tons of cocaine, and are constructed from fiberglass to travel just below the surface. If one is spotted, the crew simply sinks the boat and abandons it to the bottom of the sea so there’s no evidence.
When smuggling drugs, it's often smart to use religious iconography to cover your trail – we’ve all seen Jesus statues filled with heroin and cocaine, for example. But one enterprising crook tried to go a step farther in 2010 when he was busted at the Canadian border coming into New York state with 100 bottles of holy water. Unfortunately, this wasn’t exactly priestly business – 42 of the bottles contained a liquid solution of the horse tranquilizer ketamine. Let’s just hope they didn’t get to any altar boys.
Unsuspecting Civilian’s Car
One of the more interesting schemes to smuggle drugs was exposed in 2011 when DEA agents put the pieces together on an amazingly high-tech system to move hundreds of pounds of marijuana in the trunks of innocent civilians’ cars. At official border crossings, there’s a special fast lane called the SENTRI lane. To get a pass to use it, you need to submit to a rigorous background check. What the cartel techheads were doing was identifying Ford cars in that lane, then using a corrupt locksmith to make duplicate keys from the Ford vehicle database and placing drug packages in the car before it crossed the border. Because SENTRI drivers are thoroughly vetted, their cars are checked much less often.
There are tons of ways to hide drugs on the human body, but a Chilean man really pushed the envelope in 2009 when he arrived at the Barcelona airport in Spain with a cast on his leg that was completely made of cocaine. The 66-year-old man really went all the way for his scheme, actually fracturing his leg to make the false cast seem convincing. Cops stripped the cocaine from his leg, finding more than ten pounds of drugs in the process, and gave him a new cast before sending him to jail.
In a variant on the earlier drug cannons, Mexican drug cartels got medieval in 2011 by employing a drug catapult to fling immense packages of marijuana over the border fence. The siege machine worked without any power, using a massive elastic band mounted on a nine-foot trailer. The accuracy of the targeting mechanism is questionable to say the least, but we assume that operatives on the U.S. side of the border were waiting to grab the 45-pound payloads of marijuana wherever they may have landed.
Next: The Funniest Photos You Will See Today
Drugs Inside Other Drugs
There’s one smuggling method that’s so crazy it has to end this feature, and that’s the blatantly ridiculous idea of smuggling drugs inside of other drugs. In April of 2006, U.S. Customs seized 12 large packages of compressed plant material that they determined to be marijuana at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Pretty routine catch – until the packages were passed off to the DEA, cut open, and found to have wrapped packets of hashish inside. I think this particular set of smugglers might have missed a memo somewhere.