Drug Cartel Sells Lawn Decorations on Amazon to Hide Meth Deliveries

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Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP (Getty Images)

testing time. If you are a professional drug dealer, what is your favorite way to get products to and around the United States? Is it…

A) through catapult,
B) death drops above a dark Arkansas cornfield, or
C) load the old Los Pollos Hermanos fry the batter bucket?

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

Yes, according to a recent report from Forbes, professional con artists are hoarding their unconventional pharmaceuticals (aka, meth) in packages that are supposed to contain nondescript landscaping products. They then “sell” the packages on Amazon, presumably sending them to their buddies overseas, and thus get them under the guise of the company’s international shipping services. This process requires drug dealers to use Amazon seller accounts, and so far at least five accounts have been reported to have been involved in such schemes, writes Forbes.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Homeland Security Investigations and Amazon recently discovered that a “world narcotics organization” was behind the scheme. The method is used to transport several pounds of narcotics at a time, writes Forbes:

So far, police have seized two packages from suspect vendor accounts which contained “bulk controlled substances”. One was intercepted Oct. 28 by Customs and Border Protection in Louisville, Kentucky, before it could travel to its destination in Australia. It contained over 5 kilograms of methamphetamine. Three days later, on Halloween, agents from Amazon and HSI in Michigan inspected a package claiming to contain used slate stone for toy railways and garden pots. It contained nearly 6 kilograms of methamphetamine.

It’s somewhat unclear whether the vendor accounts involved are actually involved in legitimate sales or simply using a shell company to occasionally ship drugs disguised as commodities to their co-conspirators. Nor is there really information on the duration or prevalence of this trend. We were curious if Amazon had more details and asked for a comment. We’ll update this story if they respond.

It is certainly not the strangest method that has ever been devised for drug trafficking (among other innovations, see: narco-submarines and fake carrots), but it’s a pretty ingenious way to abuse Amazon’s gargantuan shipping network and huge community of sellers to hide illicit distribution in plain sight.

Forbes reports that along with Amazon and the HSI, the Department of Justice’s Southern District of California office is leading the investigation into the drug shipments. It is not yet known whether they have succeeded in tracking down the e-merchant Walter White who dreamed up this perverse business plan.

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