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CBS4 Investigates: Smugglers Trying To Cash In On COVID Pandemic

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Smugglers are now cashing in on the pandemic, potentially putting your community at risk.

Customs and Border Protection officers are on the hunt for drugs and thugs as they check international mail coming into South Florida.

And there's a new twist: fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.

"We'll open some of these packages and instead of being identification records it will be falsified COVID-19 vaccination cards," said Officer Pizarro.

So far, officers have found dozens of those fake vaccination cards locally and thousands nationally.

But that's not all that officers are searching for in the thousands of packages mailed in every day.

At first glance, everything may look legit, but some of these boxes hold a secret.

CBP gave CBS4 a rare look inside where they try to outsmart smugglers.  Moments after the CBS4 crew arrived, officers uncovered a smuggler's clever way to ship drugs using toothpaste.

"We see one contains a cream, almost like tooth paste substance and then this other one in the middle contains a liquid," said one officer.

Pizarro added, "In this particular instance we found ketamine concealed as toothpaste."

They even use food like cookies and chips to try and conceal the illegal substances.

"When we opened this package, it was a white powdery substance it appeared like coconut powder," said Pizarro. "However, when we conducted a field test the result was cocaine."

"This one was kind of leaking on the bottom, so they didn't seal it really good," another officer said.

It was cocaine.

Sometimes it's like finding a needle in a haystack.  This whole box contained only two packets of coke. In the past, they've found drugs in the soles of shoes and in boot heels.

Last year, CBP worldwide found an average of 3,600 pounds of drugs on a typical day. That's the equivalent weight of a midsized SUV.

Some of the stranger cases: finding cocaine in a man's Spandex underwear, under a girdle, in cooked fish that were sewn closed and in film canisters.

"You name it, we've seen it," said Zach Mann with CBP. "A woman had breast implants with cocaine in it.  A man and a woman had cocaine surgically implanted into their thighs."

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