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Valentine's Day Provides Big Business For Drug Smugglers

It is Valentine's Day today, a day normally associated with giving gifts to that special someone. Many choose to give their Valentine a bouquet of roses or other flowers as way of showing their love. But with so many flowers imported into the U.S. for Valentine's Day, border agents are on the lookout for drug traffickers who use the flower shipments as a way to smuggle drugs.

We recently posted about a Green Bay woman who was surprised to find illegal drugs in the vacuum cleaner she received as a Christmas Present. The vacuum cleaner was used to smuggle drugs into the U.S. after it was sent to Juarez, Mexico, for refurbishing.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials say that Valentine's Day provides a big opportunity for illegal drug smugglers. The majority of Valentine's flowers are shipped from Colombia and Ecuador. These countries are also well-known drug exporters. Therefore, among the nearly 275 million flowers shipped each year for Valentine's Day, smugglers try to hide cocaine and other drugs.

ICE officials noted that the smugglers are trying to take advantage of the fact that the increase in flower shipments overloads the border patrol inspection process. More illegal drugs get through because inspectors can't always check every box.

However, ICE reports that it catches most of the drugs that traffickers try to smuggle in. Furthermore, when agents find drugs, they do not just confiscate them. They make a personal delivery to the intended recipients in order to make drug arrests and to gain information about other investigations.

It is unlikely that Valentine's Day consumers here in Wisconsin will be affected by illegal drugs in their bouquet of roses, but weirder things have happened. When it comes to imported products, it never hurts to take a second look inside.

Source: National Public Radio online, "Valentine Flower Imports Checked For Bugs, Drugs," Associated Press, 03 February 2011

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