A hearse was pulled over in Tombstone, Arizona, on April 29 by U.S. Border Patrol agents, who searched the vehicle and reportedly found 67 pounds of marijuana.
Border Patrol agents spotted the hearse traveling north of Tombstone and conducted an immigration vehicle stop at a highway intersection, according to a press release obtained by KSTU. Agents found "several inconsistencies" with the hearse and requested a K-9 unit to inspect the vehicle more closely.
The drug-sniffing dogs then alerted agents to the drugs in the back of the hearse, where agents reportedly found 67 pounds of marijuana concealed in the casket. Agents also allegedly found several bags of manure in the vehicle, which they say was used to try to conceal the scent of the drugs.
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The vehicle and drugs were seized by the authorities, and the 28-year-old driver was arrested for narcotics smuggling. The driver is U.S. citizen, but agents have not released his name.
The press release warned citizens about the complex methods criminal organizations use to smuggle drugs and encouraged people to report any suspicious behavior they see or hear.
Border agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California say they have seen a large increase in narcotics smuggling, particularly in harder drugs, like methamphetamine and heroin, according to NBC. Heroin seizures have quadrupled at the San Ysidro crossing since 2010, and meth seizures have tripled. Agents say the smaller dosage of the drugs make smuggling them easier, and drugs are often hidden in the cars used to drive across the border.
"For us, hard narcotics are trending, particular heroin and methamphetamine -- the packages are getting a little bit smaller for us," said Pete Flores, Customs and Border Protection's director of field operations for the San Diego Sector. "The number of them have increased obviously because the packaging is smaller and in order to put them in deeper concealment in the vehicles."
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The San Ysidro border crossing is the busiest in the world, with 50,000 vehicles and 20,000 pedestrians crossing between Mexico and the U.S. each day. With more than 75 million travelers per year, Flores says smugglers see an opportunity to blend in with the general population, most of whom are law-abiding.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the U.S. affiliate gang of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel used its base in Tucson, Arizona, to move more than $1 million in illegal narcotics and firearms to states around the country between 2015 and 2017.