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Customs inspectors at LAX find opium in shipment from Thailand

November 4, 2010 |  2:51 pm

Customs inspectors at the Los Angeles International Airport discovered more than 18 pounds of opium hidden inside furniture shipped from Thailand, officials announced Thursday.

The opium, valued at $108,690, was found Oct. 29 in a shipment containing 22 small rattan stools, said Jaime Ruiz, a Customs and Border Protection representative. Agents noticed irregularities in the furniture when it was X-rayed and found the drugs hidden within the upper rim of the stools, Ruiz said.

Customs inspectors use a risk-based approach when choosing which loads to examine more closely at airports and shipping ports, Ruiz said. The originating country, the final destination and the type of merchandise can tip off inspectors to a potentially illegal load.

Some countries, like Thailand, require a complete screening of every load that comes in, which is how agents at LAX were able to find the opium, Ruiz said.

--Stephen Ceasar