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Customs agents are finding fake Super Bowl merch in addition to drugs and reptiles

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No that's not popcorn — it's meth hidden in a popcorn popper.

U.S. Customs agents are trying to stay one step ahead of smugglers at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).

Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie says the agency discovered 4.3 tons of hard narcotics in fiscal year 2022 and $105 million in intellectual property rights violations at CVG air cargo.

"You do have to still respect the ingenuity of the individuals who are trafficking this because they are very creative," he says.

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More than 140 pound of liquid methamphetamine was concealed within the paint.

Gillespie rattles off some examples: “Officers have found methamphetamines in nasal spray, waterproofing sealant, horse saddles, baby diapers, bottles of honey, owl decorations."

CPB Narcotic Detector Dog "Betty" is one of the agency's secret weapons.

On Jan. 6, Cincinnati U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers intercepted a large shipment of acrylic waterproofing paint from Mexico en route to suburban Houston. Narcotic detecting dog "Betty" sniffed out the drugs. The five gallon buckets were loaded with methamphetamine.

With CVG's air cargo hub being the seventh largest in North America, Gillespie doesn't see smuggling slowing down anytime soon. "I would say in the last year we've had a strong and consistent success at intercepting the heroin, the cocaine and methamphetamines," he says. Fentanyl was down somewhat as dealers look to other parts of the world where shipments are worth more.

Super Bowl counterfeits are big right now

Operation Super Fake is underway as U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents look for counterfeit Super Bowl stuff.

Chief Eric Zizelman showed WVXU counterfeit jerseys and a collection of shiny fake NFL rings. He says it’s easy to tell what's fake by the packaging and quality of the goods.

For the consumer, if it's too good to be true, it probably is. More information from CBP can be found here. You can also report trade violations to the CBP.

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Ann Thompson
CBP Chief Eric Zizelman examines fake Super Bowl rings.

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Live animals are regularly shipped illegally

Zizelman can't forget the reptiles he's found. One time it was a box of baby cobras. They were dead, otherwise he might have been in danger.

Another time criminals hid South African lizards in stuffed animals. They were still alive and quarantined at the Cincinnati Zoo. The zoo kept them and one gave birth.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.