Everybody knows that your carry-on bags will be X-rayed and may be searched when clearing customs. Yet that still doesn’t prevent wannabe smugglers from attempting to sneak through an array of downright bizarre stuff, ranging from the predictable (drugs!) to the not-so-predictable (say, a live tiger cub or water-filled plastic baggies containing tropical fish). For proof, check out these and other weird items that led would-be smugglers to be busted.
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In 2006, a woman was returning to the US from Haiti and was apprehended with a human skull in her luggage. According to the passenger, she had picked up the skull — which, disturbingly enough, still had had skin, teeth and hair attached — from a Haitian local so she could perform voodoo rituals. She was charged with smuggling a human head into the United States without proper documentation, failure to declare the head and transporting hazardous material in air commerce.
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Candy bar filled with meth
Stuffing more than a quarter-million dollars worth of methamphetamine inside chocolate bars may have seemed like a foolproof way to smuggle drugs from LA to Japan. U. customs officers were suspicious when a traveller was flagged for search after buying his ticket, in cash, just two days before his flight to Tokyo. Upon searching his bag, they discovered 45 individually wrapped Snickers bars; when the scratched the chocolate coating, instead of seeing peanuts and caramel inside, they discovered pure meth, with each bar of the drug "coated in a chocolate-like substance to make the contents of the package appear to be a real candy bar."
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Frozen goat meat stuffed with cocaine
Customs officers would never think to look inside hunks of goat meat, right? Or at least that was the thinking that led Yudishtir Maharaj to stuff seven pounds of cocaine inside frozen goat meat, which was found when an X-ray of the meat revealed square objects concealed within the meat. When officers drilled inside the meat, they discovered it was stuffed with white powder that tests revealed to be cocaine. Maharaj, then 24, was arrested and turned over to Homeland Security.
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Mr. Potato Head stuffed with ecstasy
OK, so maybe frozen goat meat isn't the greatest place to hide cocaine from customs officials — but how hiding a different drug inside a beloved children's toy? Nope, that didn't work either, as a pair of California residents discovered when they were arrested after attempting to ship a Mr. Potato Head from Frankfurt to the US that contained an ounce of crack cocaine hidden in the toy's back storage compartment in 2014. Perhaps they got the idea from an earlier incident from 2007, when a Mr. Potato Head was mailed to Australia to Ireland, with more than 10 ounces of ecstasy tablets hidden inside.
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Live tiger cub
Drugs aren't the only thing that people try to smuggle through customs; numerous people, in fact, have been busted trying to smuggle live animals. One of the stranger examples took place in 2010 when a woman flying from Bangkok to Iran had difficulty checking in an over-sized bag. When it was X-rayed, officers noticed what appeared to be "an item resembling a real cat" amongst an array of stuffed animals. A search of the suitcase revealed she was attempting to smuggle a two-month old tiger cub, which would have fetched more than $3.000 on the black market in Iran, where exotic pets are said to be a status symbol.
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Miniature monkeys hidden in a girdle
You may have heard the expression "more fun than a barrel full of monkeys," but apparently there's no fun trying to sneak a t-shirt full of monkeys through customs. After officials noticed the man acting "nervously," they noticed an unusual bulge beneath the man's t-shirt. A search revealed he was wearing a custom-made girdle that held 18 endangered miniature titi monkeys. According to authorities, he had originally hidden the monkeys inside his suitcase, but switched them to the girdle over fears they may be harmed by the X-ray machine — which, by the way, totally would have blown his cover anyway.
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A pant leg full of pigeons
In 2009, an Australian dude attempted to clear customs with two live pigeons stuffed inside his trousers. Further searching uncovered additional contraband, including a money belt containing plant seeds, bird eggs hidden in a multivitamin container and "undeclared samples of eggplant." While the man's intent wasn't clear to customs officials, he was slapped with smuggling wildlife. He's not the only person to be busted trying to smuggle birds, though; that same year, another man was arrested after being caught with 18 exotic songbirds in his pants, hidden in little pouches strapped to his legs. Customs officials were apparently tipped off by the bird droppings on the man's socks, as well as the feathers peeking out from under his pant legs.
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Severed seal’s head
In 2004, a biology teacher was caught with a severed seal’s head in his luggage. So, um, what was he doing with a severed seal's head in the first place? He reportedly told officials that the seal was already dead when he found it washed up on the beach, and chopped off its head purely for educational purposes. He was allowed to board his flight, but officials confiscated the head, as it's "illegal to disrupt or remove body parts from a dead mammal or to transport any illegal fish or wildlife product."
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In 2004, Australian customs officials seized a stuffed armadillo from Texas, which was adorned with a tiny cowboy hat and was wearing an armadillo-sized holster. Because of Australia's strict laws on wildlife importation (which includes taxidermy), the stuffed critter was seized. In a statement about the incident, customs officials joked: "Bad taste should have been enough of a reason not to bring [it] into the country."
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15 bags of live tropical fish
Australian customs officials thought something was fishy about the way a woman was walking as she passed through customs in 2005. A search revealed that the woman had a specially designed apron on beneath her skirt, which contained plastic baggies filled with 51 live tropical fish. "During the search, customs officers became suspicious after hearing 'flipping' noises coming from the vicinity of her waist," the Australian Customs Service said in a press release. "An examination revealed 15 plastic water-filled bags holding fish allegedly concealed inside a purpose-built apron."
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An Egyptian sarcophagus
A 3,000-year-old Egyptian sarcophagus was discovered by customs officials in Miami, arriving in a container shipment from Spain. When the importer couldn't come up with any proof of ownership, the ancient relic was returned to Egypt — from which, noted Egyptian authorities, it had been stolen 125 years earlier.
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You'd think bringing a gassed-up chainsaw onboard an airplane as your carry-on luggage would raise a few eyebrows, and that's exactly what happened in 2012 when someone tried to carry a chainsaw through a checkpoint at New York’s Elmira Corning Regional Airport. Amazingly enough, the passenger was allowed to board his flight and hang onto the chainsaw — although the gasoline was removed and confiscated.
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Money baked inside pastries
It's necessary to declare large sums of cash that are being brought through customs — unless you hide it by baking the bills inside some delicious-looking pastry, that is. That was the case when German customs officials discovered money that had been hidden inside baked goods as part of a money-laundering scheme in 2012.