- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

U.S. Customs Service inspectors have seized more than 21 million tablets of pseudoephedrine, a common over-the-counter cold medication, that were being smuggled into the United States for use in the production of methamphetamine, customs officials said.
Customs spokesman Dean Boyd yesterday described the 5-ton seizure, which occurred about 5 a.m. Saturday at the Blue Water Bridge at the U.S.-Canada border near Port Huron, Mich., as one of the largest in history.
He said the tablets were worth about $21 million.
Methamphetamine is a powerful illegal stimulant that is highly addictive. Commonly known as "meth," "speed," "crank" or "ice," methamphetamine, most popular in the West, is described as one of the most dangerous drugs on the street today.
In the past several years, its use has spread eastward, fueled by drug-trafficking rings with headquarters in Mexico and backed financially by other organizations in the purchase of precursor chemicals. A pound of methamphetamine would sell on the street for an estimated $12,000.
Mr. Boyd said the seized pseudoephedrine tablets were being smuggled into the United States for illicit "meth" production in clandestine laboratories.
He said investigators found 21,156,250 tablets in the trailer of a commercial truck, concealed in plastic bags inside 250 cardboard boxes labeled "fragile."
Each box weighed about 40 pounds and contained roughly 84,600 pseudoephedrine tablets. The boxes were shrink-wrapped on eight pallets and located in the nose of the 53-foot trailer.
The tablets were hidden in the boxes among other imports, including automotive parts and equipment, a crated cabana kit, cooking equipment and office furniture. The truck was bound for 10 locations, beginning in Michigan and ending in California.
Mr. Boyd said the customs inspector who made the seizure normally works at the seaport in Mobile, Ala. She has been temporarily assigned to the U.S.-Canada Border for three weeks in support of the U.S. Customs Service Level One Alert.
He said she credited the seizure to her recent Contraband Enforcement Team training in Miami and her "inspector's intuition."
In 2001, Customs officers seized more than 111 million pseudoephedrine tablets along the U.S.-Canada border. Since Oct. 1, customs officers in Michigan have made nine pseudoephedrine seizures totaling more than 36.8 million tablets.
Mr. Boyd said the driver of the truck was questioned by U.S. Customs special agents and released, as there was no evidence they had knowledge of the contraband.
Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner has said Canada has become the major source of pseudoephedrine used for the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine in the United States. Production, distribution and bulk sales of pseudoephedrine are tightly regulated in the United States, although Canada has virtually no restrictions on the drug.
U.S. authorities have said that Canadian imports of pseudoephedrine mostly from China, India and Germany have increased by nearly 1,500 percent since the mid-1990s, much of which they believe has been smuggled into the United States.

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