Forbidden crossing: The bizarre items confiscated at the Texas border in 2021

It got weird in 2021, from contraband meat to meth tacos, giant snails and more.

Items confiscated in Texas by the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2021. (Images provided by Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection make sure no one gets on or off a plane or across the border with anything too strange or illegal.

During this particular calendar year, the agencies confiscated some truly bizarre items travelers attempted to smuggle into the Lone Star State.

Here, we round up some of the oddest finds that the TSA and CBP documented in Texas in 2021.

And yes, we realize drugs, which appear on this list multiple times, are commonly confiscated contraband at airports and along the Texas border. What’s less common though is finding them hidden inside diapers, breakfast burritos, tacos and even a fresh strawberry shipment. Scroll below to gander at these and other bizarre finds.

11 jars of undeclared, dead reptiles: Brownsville Port of Entry, February

One of 11 jars containing undeclared, dead reptiles discovered by CBP officers and agriculture specialists at Brownsville Port of Entry. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

In February, CBP officers at the Brownsville Port of Entry made a gnarly, unusual discovery in someone’s vehicle: 11 jars of undeclared dead reptiles.

The driver did not declare and lacked requisite import paperwork for the deceased reptiles, according to CBP.

“Our frontline CBP officers and agriculture specialists have literally seen it all, but this discovery of reptiles in jars is a bit of an odd encounter,” said Port Director Tater Ortiz, Brownsville Port of Entry.

Meth stuffed inside 1 breakfast burrito: Houston’s Hobby Airport, April

A bag of crystal meth that officials say was found in a burrito during a screening at Hobby Airport in Houston on April 2, 2021. (TSA)

Authorities said they caught a traveler at Houston’s Hobby Airport trying to hide crystal meth inside a breakfast burrito.

According to officials at the Transportation Security Administration, a Transportation Security Officer noticed some sort of lump inside a burrito while scanning luggage. Agents asked the passenger to unwrap the burrito so they could see what was inside. Officials said the passenger insisted there was nothing inside the burrito, but once he had opened it, agents found a taped black package with some sort of substance inside.

Agents called Houston police, who determined the substance was crystal meth. The traveler was arrested.

$8.2M worth of meth packaged in commercial strawberry shipment: Pharr International Bridge, April

Bags with picture of strawberries containing 411pounds of methamphetamine seized by CBP officers at Pharr International Bridge. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Texas in April seized more than 400 pounds of meth worth $8,223,000 in a commercial shipment of fresh strawberries. The drugs were dispersed into 177 bags which had pictures of strawberries printed on them.

15 giant African snails: George Bush Intercontinental Airport, July

These Giant Land Snails were among the 15 that were seized in Houston. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport seized 15 live giant African snails from a passenger’s luggage in early July. The snails arrived from Nigeria. The passenger initially only declared dried beef, but later amended her declaration to include live snails, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection release.

While examining the passenger’s luggage, the agriculture specialists found three plastic bags containing the live snails with fresh leaves and about 0.25 pounds of beef, according to the release.

The agency turned over the snails to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which identified them as giant land snails, also known as giant African snails.

The snails pose a health risk to humans. Giant land snails are known carriers of rat lungworm, a parasitic nematode that transmits eosinophilic meningitis.

350 pounds of meat: Paso Del Norte Border Crossing, August

Contraband meats (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents made a meaty seizure in late August when they confiscated 350 pounds of contraband meat at the Texas-Mexico border.

The agents discovered the meat, approximately 320 pounds of pork bologna and 30 pounds of turkey ham, hidden in a Texas man’s vehicle, according to a release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

When the man, a 20-year-old El Paso resident, presented himself for inspection at the border around 6 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 26, agriculture specialists discovered 31 rolls of bologna and two rolls of turkey ham concealed under blankets, under seats, in the car’s center console, and inside a duffel bag, according to the release.

Crystal meth smuggled in tacos: Laredo, September 2020

Okay so this occurred in 2020 but a man was sentences to jail for this contraband crossing crime this year, thus we’re listing it here. A Texas man was ordered to federal prison in July, convicted of trying to smuggle crystal meth into the United States using tacos, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Nicolas Castro Jr., 31, of Laredo, Texas will serve an 87-month sentence followed by five years of supervised release.

On Sept. 8, 2020, Castro attempted to enter the United States at the Gateway to the Americas Bridge in Laredo. Authorities inspected his belongings and a K-9 drew officers’ attention to a plastic bag containing tacos and chips, according to a release. Castro told officers it was his lunch.

47 live roosters: Laredo Port of Entry, November

A total of 47 fighting roosters and hens intercepted by CBP officers and agriculture specialists at Laredo Port of Entry's Gateway to the Americas Bridge. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

BP officers and agriculture specialists at the Laredo Port of Entry intercepted a large clutch of live poultry hidden in a vehicle in November.

CBP officers discovered live poultry in stockings under the vehicle’s front seats and encountered more live poultry in a passenger’s purse. Altogether, 47 live birds were found concealed underneath the seats, floor mats, inside the glove compartment and trunk of the vehicle.

Four pounds of meth concealed in ‘dirty’ diapers: November

A shipment of diapers coming from Texas and ​​​​​heading to Australia contained more than four pounds of methamphetamine. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Okay, so this particular find by CBP officers wasn’t seized in Texas, but it was sent from Texas. On Nov. 11, CBP officers in Cincinnati intercepted four pounds of smuggled narcotics in a shipment of baby diapers from Texas en route to Australia, according to a release.

CBP Narcotic Detector Dog “Betty” was alerted to the shipment of diapers, which was destined for a private residence in Australia. The shipment contained bags of plastic wrapped baby diapers which appeared to be firm and “unusually heavy,” according to a release. Officers tested the material inside the diapers, which authorities identified as methamphetamine.


About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.