Heroes come in all shapes and sizes -- and species: A Port Authority Police K9 sniffed out a compartment used to smuggle more than $10 million in cocaine into the Bronx in a trailer filled with rotting fruit, prosecutors said.
Balu and his Port Authority police officer partner are assigned with the DEA, the NYPD and New York State Police to a task force that pursues international drug smugglers in the New York metropolitan area.
During one of the area's largest cocaine seizures in years, Balu's nose led task force members to a hidden compartment in the top of a refrigerated trailer that authorities said was pulled into a warehouse near the busy Hunts Point market packed with oregano, papayas and coconuts -- along with 154 pounds of coke.
The New York Drug Enforcement Task Force "successfully disrupted a major narcotics supply route" for cocaine presumably bound for the streets of New York on Labor Day weekend, NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said.
Investigators with what's known as Group T-41 saw the tractor-trailer enter the Longfellow Avenue warehouse through a security gate on Wednesday, along with a truck transporting a shipping container.
Late Thursday morning, an SUV they'd spotted before entered the property bearing a different license plate -- "a common counter-surveillance tactic," Brennan said in a release.
Task force members moved in, seized the driver of the Hyundai Santa Fe and found two suitcases containing the 70 kilos of cocaine, she said.
DETF members "froze the warehouse location," got a search warrant secured by her staff and searched the refrigerated container they'd seen on the trailer the day before, Brennan said.
They found "rotted bags of papayas, pallets of cartons of oregano and coconuts inside,” her release said.
Then they summoned Balu, who showed the agents where to look.
Sawing open the top of the trailer, they found the empty compartment, which they believe was used to smuggle in the cocaine before it was transferred to the SUV.
The DEA pegged the price of the coke at $2.5 million wholesale and well over $10 million if broken up and sold on the street.
Cocaine "remains a major public health threat and is commonly being mixed with fentanyl," DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan said, noting that the drug "was involved in 52% of overdose deaths in New York City" last year.
"Along with an increase in cocaine seizures in recent years, we have seen bulk smuggling methods using trailers filled with cover loads of produce," Donovan said. "This seizure is significant."
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