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1,800 pounds of pot found in lawn statues

Drug agents arrest 15 people and seize 200 concrete burros packed with an estimated $1.5 million in marijuana.

February 05, 2009|Andrew Blankstein

In a case that could cast suspicion on lawn ornaments everywhere, authorities say they have busted a drug ring that used concrete donkey statues to smuggle $1.5 million worth of marijuana into the Los Angeles area.

At least 15 people have been arrested in connection with the scheme to ship 1,800 pounds of pot in 200 concrete burros, which were discovered last month in a shipping container at the Port of Long Beach.

The donkey shipment was believed to have originated in Mexico and had been sent to a fictitious business in Fontana. U.S. customs officials acting on a tip discovered the contraband and alerted nearly a dozen agencies that make up the Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force.

Marijuana was found hidden inside the hollow lawn statues, which are 3 feet tall and weigh 100 pounds, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.

Authorities tracked the shipment of dope-laden donkeys to Fontana and Sun Valley and made the arrests Tuesday night, Kice said.

The bulk of the shipment was seized in Fontana but agents found a portion of the donkey shipment in Sun Valley, stacked against a backyard fence next to a pen of live goats.

Agents detained 15 suspects, Kice said. Of those, 14 were held on immigration violations and the remaining suspect was held on an outstanding criminal warrant.

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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