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Smugglers try to use Dolly for cover, officials say

  • Story Highlights
  • Officials seize drugs, aliens at Texas checkpoint
  • 9,600 pounds of marijuana has estimated street value of $8 million
  • Busts come hours before landfall of Hurricane Dolly
  • Dolly hit south Texas coast with winds up to 120 mph on Wednesday
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Smugglers tried to use Hurricane Dolly as a cover in at least three attempts to move drugs or illegal aliens through Texas, border officials said Wednesday.

Authorities estimate that the confiscated marijuana has a street value of $8 million.

Border Patrol agents unload bricks of marijuana found buried under cotton seeds at a checkpoint.

About 9,600 pounds of marijuana was found buried under cotton seeds on a truck on U.S. 77 at the Border Patrol's Sarita checkpoint south of Kingsville, Texas, said Lloyd Easterling, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection.

Officials said the marijuana, with a street value of $8 million, may have been smuggled into the United States before the storm hit land and then moved inland Wednesday to take advantage of the bad weather.

Dolly, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm by Thursday, made landfall along the South Texas coast Wednesday afternoon as a Category 2 hurricane, clocking sustained winds at 100 mph winds and gusts up to 120 mph. It tore roofs from homes, flooded streets and sent residents near the coastal border of Texas and Mexico scrambling for safety. Video Watch how Dolly ripped into Texas »

Dolly is expected to dissipate fully by Friday, but still is expected to produce 8 to 12 inches of rain, with up to 20 inches in some spots, the National Hurricane Center said.

Jayson Ahern, deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said the Sarita checkpoint marijuana bust was one of three Wednesday in which smuggling operations appeared to be attempting to operate under the cover of the storm.

In two of the incidents, people were caught smuggling illegal immigrants in South Texas, he said. One case involved six people. He did not have details on the second incident, Ahern said.

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"It proves the point that oftentimes during these types of tragic circumstances, criminal organizations try to exploit what they believe is to be a weakened position of law enforcement," Ahern said.

The tractor-trailer's driver, a U.S. citizen, and the contraband were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

All About Hurricanes and CyclonesNational Hurricane CenterMarijuanaDrug Trafficking

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