BUY a Ford Fusion (Mondeo in Australia) in the US and you might get quite a surprise when you check the boot.
A recent shipment of Fusions from Ford’s Hermosillo plant in Mexico came without spare wheels – in place were packs of marijuana, shaped to perfectly fit into the wheel well.
The weed was uncovered by a dealership in Youngstown, Ohio, where the cars had been delivered.
Investigators then found more marijuana blocks in at least 14 other vehicles at Ohio dealerships. In total, authorities seized packs of pot valued at $1.26 million. And that was only in Ohio.
Then more Fusions with the same cargo were found at dealerships in other states.
Three more drug-packed cars ended up at a car rental outlet at St Paul Airport in Minneapolis, and there could be many more, still undiscovered, elsewhere in the country. Each car had about 20kg of marijuana in the wheel wells.
The packages were worked into half-moon shapes with two in each spare tire wheel well.
A few months ago, similarly equipped Made in Mexico Fusions were reported in Arizona and Minnesota.
The cars arrive in the US aboard rail carriages and drug enforcement agents say the packages should have been retrieved on the US side, but in these particular cases the pick-ups never took place.
Ford said the drugs were not placed in cars inside its Mexico plant and it was working with the FBI and customs on an extensive investigation.
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) relies heavily on pre-importation electronic screening, which reviews the shipment information in a government database and then identifies whether it is to be X-ray or physically inspected.
But one CBP officer claimed only 4 per cent of commercial shipments were actually inspected, leaving a huge opportunity for drugs, weapons and people smuggling into the US.
Above: Can't argue with that signage. Below: Police at Dilworth, Minnesota show what they found in the new Fusions.