5 Real Smuggling Schemes That Sound Totally Made Up

by Pauli Poisuo

There are countless methods for smuggling, ranging from the inventive and ridiculously elaborate, to your cousin pointing at a customs officer, yelling, “WHAT’S THAT BEHIND YOU?!” and running away. As a rule, The Modern Rogue doesn’t condone any of them, because come on. However, out of sheer thirst for knowledge, we do harbor a keen scientific interest in them all -- especially the flat out insane ones, such as ...

Homing Pigeons With Tiny Backpacks

Homing pigeons have been used for message-carrying purposes for thousands of years. They’re referenced in the Bible. They carried chariot racing results in Roman times. Genghis Khan established an entire network of pigeon relay posts, presumably to keep track of which women he hadn’t yet impregnated. So really, it was just a matter of time before someone figured out how to use them for smuggling purposes.

Look, there’s no way to say this that doesn’t sound like an absurdist cartoon gag, so we’ll just go ahead and blurt it out: Some guys figured out how to smuggle stuff using homing pigeons that wear adorably tiny backpacks. Look at this thing. Look at it:


The pigeon was immediately arrested and is awaiting its appeal.

Tell us that isn’t the best thing you’ve seen all day. That pigeon is just one goatee away from being the underdog antihero in an all-animal remake of Breaking Bad.

This particular pigeon was caught in 2017 by Kuwaiti custom officials on the Kuwait-Iraq border, and to make things even crazier, they had been tracking it for a while. Grown men with serious-looking uniforms actually organized a pigeon-stalking operation that resulted in an arrest. Did they read him his rights? Is that a thing customs officers do?


"It's my cousin's backpack, I swear!"

To be fair, the operation was a necessary one. Pigeons have occasionally been used to transport drugs in at least Latin America before, and the Kuwaiti officials had caught wind that smugglers had started using carrier pigeons to get their fare across the border. This pigeon alone turned out to be carrying a whopping 178 ketamine pills, which it later claimed, “That’s my personal stash, man. I don’t distribute. Also, I am a talking pigeon.”

A Turtle Inside A KFC Sandwich

Not every intricate smuggling attempt is a large-scale, well thought-out operation. Occasionally, it’s just some crazy guy, excitedly shoving contraband in his pants in full view of the world.

In 2016, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport bore witness to one of these less thought-out smuggling endeavors, when a passenger’s carry-on luggage was found to contain a peculiar item. The man had packed a KFC sandwich in his bag -- you know, like one does. However, the X-ray machine showed strange protrusions sticking out of the wrapper, and they looked an awful lot like turtle legs.



We'd give anything to find out it was one this size.

The officer’s suspicions then raised when the passenger flat out refused to open the bag, saying: “There’s no turtle in there, just a hamburger! Nothing special to see inside.”

Spoiler: The bag totally had a turtle in it. The guy had just shoved the animal in a sesame seed bun, put it in a KFC wrapper, and waltzed toward the airport security. Oh, and that quote we used? That’s not a cute little cartoony joke we made up. He actually said those words.


"Just a sandwich, huh? Fine. Eat it."

This was his own pet turtle, by the way. He wasn’t trying to smuggle it for profit or anything -- he was just so fond of the animal that he wanted to take it with him for a trip.

Eventually, the man was able to leave, and his friend agreed to take care of the turtle during his absence. Still, as some users of China’s favorite social media, Weibo, pointed out, dressing your beloved pet up as a carry-on snack and subjecting it to a ton of X-rays are fairly questionable moves for a reasonable pet owner. Unless it results in turning him into a quick-witted, sewer-dwelling ninja. In which case, awesome work!

“Wooden” Pallets That Are Actually Made Of Cocaine

“Cocaine” is the word your brain’s auto-prediction software most likely auto-fills after “smuggling”. It has been transported inside so many statues, spare tires, engine parts and butts that it’s probably easier to list the things that haven’t been used to smuggle it. Perhaps the most ingenious of these tricks is also the most unassuming: Some criminals figured out that they shouldn’t hide the stuff in the products that they’re transporting. They hide it in the last place anyone would look: Things customs officials see every day by the thousands. Things absolutely everyone uses to transport stuff in bulk. These things:


"Well, that explains why the workers were taking close-up sniffs."

Nobody notices the humble wooden pallet. It’s a logistical necessity for every place that uses forklifts. It’s not the vehicle you use to transport your products. It’s not a product itself. It just ... is. And, as you may have have figured out, these particular pallets aren’t actually wooden. They’re made of cocaine. Compressed cocaine, elaborately shaped to look like wood.

Unfortunately for these particularly enterprising criminals, they attempted to bring their product in Europe via Spain, which is a main point of entry to the continent for South American drug traffickers, so they know to expect any and all sorts of shenanigans. In 2015, the Spanish police seized several dozen of these pallets that were made of a whopping 1.4 tons of cocaine, along with an associated operation that disguised the drug as coal.



And 8 pounds of heroin, disguised as a live puppy.

Moral of the story: A good drug-sniffing dog doesn’t give a fraction of a damn about your cocaine sculpting skills. Also, apparently cocaine sculpting is a marketable skill in criminal organizations.  

Live Birds In Empty Water Bottles

It’s a sad fact of life that if something’s rare, there’s always a market for it. An even sadder fact is that this also applies to living things, such as rare birds. The thing is, they generally disagree with being quietly moved about, what with all the cawing and shrieking and pecking and general thrashing that comes with being a bird. That is, unless you’re a professional wildlife smuggler and also a horrible person, which is when you ... just shove the birds in water bottles and see how it goes? Wait, really?

*Sigh* ... Just ... *Sigh*

Yeah, that’s apparently a thing. In 2015, a 37-year-old Indonesian guy decided that the best way to smuggle 21 live, critically endangered, yellow-crested cockatoos was to shove them into empty 1.5 liter water bottles and gleefully pack them in his luggage, secure in the knowledge that there’s no way any of this can go wrong.

… You know what? This is getting depressing. Quick, let’s cleanse the palate by watching this Modern Rogue video about making secret storage containers that contain absolutely no birds whatsoever:


Ahh. We needed that.

Anyway, this particular story has a happy ending: The jerkbag who tried to make a quick buck with the poor cockatoos was promptly snatched by the Indonesian police. The cops, in turn, got to practice their best stony “yeah, right” looks at the criminal’s claims that he was just trying to bring a couple of bird-bottles to a friend and had no idea how the other 19 identically packaged cockatoos had ended up in his luggage.

Even better, the birds all survived the ordeal, and were sent to the country’s natural resources conservation office. Interestingly, that same office also deals with Indonesia’s wildlife trafficking crime, which we take to mean that the cockatoos’ rehabilitation to the wild included being trained to spin-kick any future traffickers right in the crotch.



"You want some of this? Come at me, bro!"

Children’s Coloring Books That Are Colored With Drugs

Coloring books are possibly the most innocuous things in existence. Just pages and pages of black and white image outlines, ready to be filled with the colors of a child’s imagination and dreams and ...

... well, you know where this is going. Some criminals have totally figured out how to smuggle drugs in the pages of coloring books.



Well, it does explain why the kid couldn't stay inside the lines.

In 2011, three inmates in a Cape May, New Jersey jail decided that they would like some drugs, and devised a plan to smuggle it in coloring books with their loved ones. We’re not talking about the old “cut a hole in the book to hide your stash” trick, either. These people went all in.

First, they devised a way to turn the drug Suboxone into a colorful paste that looked a whole lot like crayon. Then, they colored the coloring books with the drug paste, taking care to do it just as badly as you’d imagine a toddler to do. As a cherry to their scheming sundae, they even added words like “To Daddy”, scribbled in the pages with childlike handwriting. That’s dedication. Or horrible. Depends on whether they wrote it themselves or actually had a kid write it.

The inmates’ cunning plan was ultimately only foiled by an anonymous tip, and the officials didn’t even bother hiding how impressed they were. The Cape May County Sheriff openly marveled at the case, stating that he had never seen anything like it in his 38 years of law enforcement. Though we suspect that his sails somewhat deflated when he found out that earlier that month, a Pennsylvanian prison had cracked a similar case where inmates were receiving letters from home, with Suboxone paste hidden under the damn stamps.

Like this article? Check out "5 People Who Took Con Artistry To Crazy New Heights" and "How Criminals Can Duplicate Your Keys (Without Ever Touching Them)".

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