What do Elmo the Muppet and cute, cuddly puppy dogs have in common? They were both caught smuggling dope in 2006.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is honoring '06 with The Year in Pictures, an online photo essay of some of its most noteworthy cases. I'm reprinting here a few of the highlights. (All photos and captions below are courtesy of the DEA.)
We start with a bust that somehow eluded me, of an alleged meth trafficking ring that had the gall to recruit Sesame Street's Elmo to smuggle its dastardly dope. The Elmo dolls each held as much as 4 pounds of meth, which were smuggled by a Latino gang from California to Colorado, according to the feds. The fellow in the suit, holding the suspect below, is Jeffrey Sweetin, special agent in charge of the DEA's Rocky Mountain Field Division. Sources say the muppet was presumed armed and dangerous.
Oct. 25, 2006: A large methamphetamine distribution organization based in Greeley, Colo., used Elmo dolls to smuggle methamphetamine. The investigation, which began in September 2005, has resulted in the seizure of over 45 pounds of high quality ICE methamphetamine, 1.1 kilos of cocaine, and $59,000 in cash.
As if preying on poor Elmo weren't enough, here's a shot from a February case in which Colombian traffickers smuggled liquid heroin surgically implanted into the bodies of live puppies. Yuk. Talk about bad guys ... (For more shots of the puppies, check out this DEA update.)
2006: DEA arrested 22 heroin traffickers based out of Medellin, Colombia, who used puppies to smuggle drugs. The drug traffickers surgically implanted packets of liquid heroin into purebred dogs. All of the puppies who survived were adopted by local families and are still doing well today.
Here's another case, which somehow escaped my attention, of a budding Bay Area entrepreneur who allegedly mimicked popular candy bars and soft drinks with pot-laced recipes. As DEA's Special Agent in Charge Francisco Peña put it, "In a way, this case sort of answers the question, 'What will they think of next?' "
March 16, 2006: DEA arrested 12 people in the San Francisco Bay Area and seized hundreds of marijuana-laced candy and soft drinks. Some of the product labels seized by investigators included Stoney Ranchers, Munchy Way, Rasta Reece's, Buddafingers, and Pot Tarts.
Finally, here's a shot of the largest of more than 20 tunnels the feds have uncovered along the U.S.-Mexico border since 9/11. Give the crooks credit for ingenuity, if nothing else.
Jan. 26, 2006: DEA and ICE agents uncovered a massive cross-border drug tunnel between the U.S. and Mexico. The cement lined passage linked warehouses in Tijuana, Mexico, and Otay Mesa, Calif. The nearly 1,000-yard tunnel came complete with electricity, ventilation, and over 2 tons of marijuana.