A Drug Cartel Is Selling Lawn Decorations on Amazon to Hide Their Meth Shipments

Image for article titled A Drug Cartel Is Using Lawn Decorations Sold via Amazon to Hide Their Meth Shipments

Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP (Getty Images)

Test time. If you’re a professional drug trafficker, what’s your favorite way to move product in and around the US? Is it…

A) via catapult,
B) dead drops over a darkened Arkansas corn field, or
C) load up the ol’ Los Pollos Hermanos fry batter bucket?

…Apparently the answer is D), none of the above. The real answer is: become a seller of decorative lawn stones for Amazon.com.

Yes, according to a recent report from Forbes, professional crooks are squirreling their unconventional pharmaceutical products (aka, meth) into Amazon packages. To keep suspicion at bay, the packages are advertised as mundane landscaping products. Using Amazon vendor accounts, the dealers are then able to move their bounty under the cover of the company’s international shipping services. Presumably the disguisesed items are shipped to overseas cronies or wherever the next stop in the global trafficking journey is. So far, at least five vendor accounts have been flagged for having been potentially involved in such schemes, Forbes writes.

Agents from the federal Homeland Security Investigations office and Amazon recently discovered that a “global narcotics organization” was behind the plot. The method is being used to transport multiple kilos of narcotics at one time, Forbes writes:

So far, police have seized two packages from the suspicious vendor accounts that contained “bulk controlled substances.” One was intercepted on October 28 by Customs and Border Protection in Louisville, Kentucky, before it could make its way to its destination in Australia. It contained over 5 kilograms of methamphetamine. Three days later, on Halloween, Amazon and HSI agents in Michigan inspected a parcel claiming to contain pre-owned slate stone for toy railways and garden pots. It contained nearly 6 kilograms of meth.

It’s sorta unclear whether the vendor accounts involved are actually involved in any legitimate sales, or are just using a front company to occasionally ship drugs disguised as products to their co-conspirators. There also isn’t really any information on how long this trend has been going on or how prevalent it might be. We were curious as to whether Amazon had any further details and reached out for comment. We will update this story if they respond.

This definitely isn’t the weirdest method that’s ever been conceived of to traffic drugs (among other innovations, see: narco-submarines and fake carrots), but it is a pretty ingenious way to abuse Amazon’s gargantuan shipping network and immense vendor community to hide illicit distribution in plain sight.

Forbes reports that, along with Amazon and the HSI, the Justice Department office for the southern district of California is leading the investigation into the drug shipments. No word yet on whether they’ve managed to track down the e-commerce Walter White who dreamed up this perverse business plan.

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