10 Craziest Drug Busts
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6. Operation Decked, 2007
Haul: $670 Million
A cadre of coke smugglers opted to pull a Gus Fring and hide in plain sight. But after the DEA and the Coast Guard seized their 20 tons of cocaine in the waters near Panama, it's safe to say they wished they stuck with the tried-and-true muling of swallowed balloons. On this botched operation, the cartel “simply loaded these bales of cocaine into cargo containers on the top of the deck of this freighter,” said a DEA administrator in charge of the bust. “They were just sitting there on the main deck.” At the time, this was the largest maritime cocaine seizure by US forces.
7. You Don't Know Pablo, 1984
Haul: $2.2 Billion
At the height of his infamy, coke kingpin Pablo Escobar was raking in a million dollars a day by supplying America with 50% of its cocaine. He transported it with his massive fleet of vehicles, including helicopters, planes, boats—and even a submarine. A lot of the white stuff was made in Tranquilandia, an eponymous secret jungle laboratory complete with its own airstrips, a personal army, dormitories and off-the-grid water and electricity. But if you build it, the DEA will come: by following tracking devices hidden on Escobar's raw materials, agents were able to hunt down and seize 14 tons of cocaine worth over $1 billion. It put a modest dent in Escobar's estimated $25 billion a year till.
8. Cache and Carry, 2009
Opium trafficking is a huge fundraiser for terrorist groups like the Taliban and a whopping 90% of the world's opium supply comes out of Afghanistan, so the Afghan military considers this raid, in which 92 tons of opium poppy seeds were seized, a win in both the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. It's credited as the “single-largest drug cache by Afghan-led forces in Afghanistan to date” in a statement by allied forces. Huge success? You decide: "A total of 60 militants were eliminated as they mounted an ineffective and uncoordinated defense against friendly forces,” the armed forces' statement reads. And just like the massive 260 ton hashish bust the year before, this stock was obliterated via airstrike.
9. I Lost My Smack in San Francisco, 1991
Haul: $5 Billion
San Fran's junkie population got a little involuntary detox when authorities made the biggest heroin bust ever. TV crews got footage of the 59 boxes filled with 1,059 pounds of China white heroin that had just made the long journey from Thailand and landed in the Bay Area with a street value somewhere in the range of $2.7 billion and $4 billion—more than the DEA's entire budget for 2010. Drug War commanders say that this seizure was roughly 5% of the world's yearly production.
10. The High Life, 1989
Haul: $13 Billion
In a warehouse located in an upscale California residential community in the foothills of of the San Gabriel mountains, the cops cuffed big time cartel kingpin Rafael Munoz Talavera and seized his $13 billion in illicit assets: a US record-breaking (and maintaining) 21 tons of cocaine, enough to cut five lines for every American. But even this impressive haul was small-time compared to the 77 tons that had moved through the warehouse in the time up to the arrest. For that much product, Talavera shelled out $81 million for transportation costs alone.