Tijuana police say an anonymous tip led them to search merchandise at a roadside curio shop at the San Ysidro border crossing on August 26, where they discovered individual doses of heroin or methamphetamine hidden inside secret compartments in paintings being sold by a street vendor.
The Baja California daily El Mexicano reported that the paintings included images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Last Supper, and Pink Floyd.
According to El Mexicano, the scheme worked like this: Travelers in motor vehicles would ask the vendor for their drug of choice, which would be brought to them in individual doses as they waited in traffic. Once they removed the drugs and consumed them, the same vendor would return and take back the painting on the pretext that the buyer had changed his mind.
"That's how they sobered up before crossing the border," one police officer told the newspaper on condition of anonymity.
El Mexicano’s account did not explain how the driver or passengers in a specific vehicle knew which of many vendors to ask for drugs, nor how the single vendor allegedly involved in the drug sales knew which travelers might be interested in the contraband.
Most of the alleged drug sales took place in the early morning hours of Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, police said.
Officers arrested David Durán Guzmán, 40, at his curio shop, El Mexicano reported. Police said they found 60 doses of heroin and meth at Durán's shop but did not specify the quantities of each drug.