Dealers: Packaging tricks crucial to going undetected

For pot dealers who depend on the mail to deliver their profits, a lot rides on their skill as shippers.

Details laid out by federal drug and postal agents in court affidavits show that those in the drug trade who ship thousands of dollars in cash go to great lengths to mask the marijuana scent their wads invariably contain.

The cash itself often provides the first clue, usually a mixture of bills ranging from $100 down to as small as $5, affidavits state. Dealers occasionally use money orders to pay off their Oregon suppliers, but they virtually never trust personal checks or cashier's checks in their transfers.

Stacks of cash are often vacuum-sealed, with liquid detergent sometimes squirted between the stacks to throw off a drug dog's detection. Other masking agents include carbon paper, dryer sheets, cut pieces of carpet, perfume, coffee and bubble wrap, affidavits state.

The boxes are then sealed intensely with masking or duct tape on all the seams to keep the marijuana aroma from leaking through.

Some of the less crafty ones simply hide cash between the pages of books or magazines, according to affidavits.

To reduce the time a package is exposed to detection, many dealers use overnight delivery, often using fake names for recipients.

The fake names traffickers use can speak volumes, says Medford police Lt. Brett Johnson, who oversees the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement task force, also known as MADGE.

"My favorite one they used is 'Madge Johnson,' " Johnson says. "I think they were starting to feel our pressure."

The parcels are usually shipped with a "waiver of signature" so they can be left at an address without anyone having to sign for it. Many of these packages will stand out because they have handwritten labels and no business account numbers on them, according to affidavits.

Some shippers will send the packages to the homes of unsuspecting neighbors, then keep an eye on the deliveries to ensure police haven't staked them out before fetching their shipments, one affidavit states.

To add one more layer of protection, money-shippers often mail packages from a different ZIP code than the one shown on the return address, affidavits state.

— Mark Freeman


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