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Cocaine Found in Three Shipments of Colombian Bananas

February 10, 1991

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Store clerks unpacking bananas from Colombia found about 74 pounds of cocaine in three crates, authorities said.

The first illegal stash was discovered Friday in Indiana and two were discovered Saturday in different Florida cities.

All three crates were imported by Turbana Corp. of Coral Cables, said Brad Knutter, assistant special agent for the U.S. Customs Service.

The Florida-bound shipments entered the United States through Tampa and the shipment sent to Indiana was imported through Bridgeport, Conn.

Robert Lounsbery, Turbana’s vice president of operations, said his company had no knowledge of the cocaine. Turbana has armed guards on ships, searches vessels and takes other security steps, but ″it’s not possible to be a hundred percent effective,″ he said.

Terre Haute, Ind., produce workers found 30 pounds of cocaine and a package of methamphetamine, police said. Employees at a Publix Super Market in Crystal River, Fla., found about 22 pounds of cocaine. Another 22 to 26.4 pounds of the drug were found in a crate at a Publix in Orlando, Knutter said.

Produce crates are popular with smugglers because authorities can’t search all of the thousands transported on each ship, Knutter said. The smugglers often are stowaways who retrieve the cocaine once the crates are unloaded.

″Someone who had planned to pick up the cocaine apparently didn’t make it,″ Knutter said.

Four stowaways were found aboard the ship that carried the Florida crates. Federal authorities sent them back to Colombia, Knutter said.

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