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Inspection Of Fruit For Drugs Finds Juice

June 26, 1985

MIAMI (AP) _ Mindful of their discovery this month of 300 pounds of cocaine hidden in plaster yams, U.S. Customs agents poked hundreds - maybe thousands - of pineapples with screwdrivers in search of drugs.

This time they found pineapple juice.

″It ruined the shipment. Just about every pineapple was punctured,″ said Martin Shield, whose Pompano Beach produce shipping firm ordered the 2,450 cases, or about 13,000 Colombian pineapples.

Unless the government reimburses him $10,000, Shield said, ″I’ll scream. I thought it was quite excessive.″

Customs agents said only $800 worth of the pineapples were punctured in last week’s search at the Port of Miami. Shield’s shipment came in on a sister ship of one that carried cocaine, customs spokesman Cliff Stallings said Monday.

″We realize that we do have to damage produce or property when we’re searching,″ Stallings said. ″It’s the price we pay to keep drugs from entering the country.″

Since the June 10 cocaine-yam haul, Stallings said Customs agents are more closely scrutinizing food shipments.

In that discovery, 300 pounds of the illicit drug were shipped to the United States inside plaster jumbo yams mixed among thousands of real ones.

The bogus yams were so realistic that never did learn to distinguish them from the real thing, and spent days probing each by hand in search of cocaine- laden fakes.

Stallings said Shield’s $10,000 claim may be too much to pay.

″I was told that it was not extensive damage,″ Stallings said. ″He’ll have to submit a claim and they’ll review it. If it’s substantiated, they’ll pay it.″

Shield maintains his price is right, and said that agents were overzealous.

″If they’re going to ruin my fruit, I wish they’ll tell me ahead of time and I’ll order more,″ the shipper said.

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