Meth disguised as a 500-year-old Aztec calendar stone (courtesy DOJ)

On October 16, an alleged Orange County drug ring was busted by law enforcement. Nine individuals based in Garden Grove, California have been arrested, accused of sending three separate shipments of methamphetamine to Hawaii, all of which were intercepted by authorities. The first alleged shipment consisted of two pounds of meth, sent via FedEx from Santa Ana. The second, this time five pounds’ worth, was shipped in April from Cypress, hidden in coffee bags. And in July, 25 pounds were sent, this time cleverly (and convincingly) disguised as Aztec souvenirs.

Assorted “decorations” confiscated by authorities (courtesy DOJ)

The various chunks of meth were part of a 90-pound package of miscellaneous Mexican souvenirs. Each piece had been intricately carved or molded and then painted to resemble items like masks, wall hangings, statues, and ancient calendars. However, a simple breakage in the decorative replicas revealed the deception.

Close-up of the broken meth statues (courtesy DOJ)

The members of the group have been indicted on charges which include possession and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. They each face a minimum five-year prison sentence, potentially decades. This is hardly the first intersection between drug smuggling and art, and won’t be the last. Previous notable cases include the UK prisoners who had drugs snuck to them in homemade paintings, and the Connecticut art broker who attempted to launder drug money through the sale of paintings by Amedeo Modigliani and Edgar Degas.

h/t LA Taco.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that it was unclear whether the group intended the Aztec objects to appear authentic or simply as souvenirs. It has since been confirmed that they were being disguised as decorative souvenirs. This has been updated in the post. 

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. You can find his all his links and public profiles here.

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