WOODINVILLE, Wash. - Crates of bananas shipped to Washington grocery stores were carrying more than $1 million worth of cocaine.
The bricks of drugs were hidden under bananas and shipped to three different Safeway stores. Employees discovered the drugs Sunday.
About 50 pounds of cocaine were found in both Woodinville (19150 NE Woodinville Duvall Road) and Bellingham (1275 E. Sunset Drive). A Federal Way Safeway (1207 S. 320th St.) discovered 11 bricks, or 24 pounds of cocaine.
"You expect it to happen in Miami or LA or border towns," said De'Ette Binder, a Safeway shopper. "This sort of thing doesn't happen in Federal Way."
"It's a ton of cocaine. It's something we don't see around here," said Sgt. Ryan Abbott, of the King County Sheriff's Office. "We don't know if it was a mis shipment, if it was supposed to go to a different area and they accidentally sent it here."
The bananas at all three Safeway stores came from a central distribution warehouse in Auburn, which ships product to 144 Safeway stores on the West Coast.
Abbott said Safeway checked the remaining banana boxes at its warehouse and stores and did not find any more drugs.
The total street value for the 123 pounds of cocaine discovered about $1.5 million.
"It's obviously a big operation that's going on," Abbott said.
He said employees at the Woodinville Safeway made the discovery when unpacking the produce and noticed at first that the bananas were overripe.
"There were a couple of moldy bananas on the top, but underneath were several rectangular-shaped blocks wrapped in brown paper. They cut into one of them and saw a white powdery substance and immediately called police," Abbott said.
"Fifty pounds of cocaine showing up at a tiny little local store like this, yeah, it's almost unbelievable," said Heather Griffin, a Woodinville shopper.
Police are working to figure out where the cocaine is from and how it got to the Auburn warehouse.
"I'm sure that somebody is in a lot of trouble," Griffin said. "I'm sure this isn't where it was intended to go," she said with a laugh.
Local investigators are leading the case right now, with the Drug Enforcement Agency assisting.
Abbott said once detectives can establish that the cocaine came from outside Washington state, that's when the DEA will likely take over.
Bellingham police told KIRO7, "This appears to be a case where someone at a shipping port either got the wrong shipment from Central America or let cocaine slip through the U.S. port for fear of getting caught."
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