Dog finds marijuana amid peppers

14,000 pounds seized in Ill. worth $20 million

March 14, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

CHICAGO - The truck was supposed to be carrying 7 tons of jalapeno peppers, but Rocco, a drug-sniffing dog, knew immediately that the produce was not intended for salsa.

Instead, police said they found 14,000 pounds of marijuana Friday hidden behind two pallets of outdated hot peppers in a semitrailer parked next to a Bolingbrook truck stop. The cargo was believed to be the largest single seizure of marijuana inside the U.S. border in history, police said.

The 175 boxes of marijuana, which authorities had to cart to the Illinois State Police headquarters warehouse in Springfield because there was too much to store locally, were valued at $20 million, police said.

No arrests have been made and the truck's driver has not been found, police said Monday.

The trailer and tractor belong to a Dallas-area trucking company, and both are registered in Texas. The truck's records identify it as carrying about 14,000 pounds of peppers.

Police say the truck might have been parked at the Pace bus service lot, next to a truck stop at Interstate Highway 55 and Illinois Highway 53, since Thursday.

The site has become a well-used transfer station for Chicago-bound drug shipments from the U.S.-Mexico border. Drug enforcement agencies have been paying increasing attention to the truck stop over the past couple of years after seizing other multimillion-dollar drug shipments there, police said.

Investigators found the trailer as they were making a regular patrol of the area, police said.

A 12,000-pound seizure of marijuana in Florida in 1995 was the second largest such seizure, said Dan Kent, deputy director of the state police, and the state police's Narcotics and Currency Interdiction Team seized about 18,000 pounds of pot over all of last year.

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