Authorities late last week discovered nearly 500 pounds of pot worth more than $1 million stashed in the spare tire compartments of 15 Ford Fusions in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The initial discovery was made at the service department of a dealership in Portage County, Ohio, when staff members discovered the pressed marijuana during a delivery inspection, according to the Portage County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities found five more sedans at a rail station in Warren, Ohio, and another nine at dealerships in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Each Fusion contained about 14.5 kilograms — or 32 pounds — of marijuana that was tightly packed into half-moon shapes. The drugs are worth more than $1 million, according to Silverio Balzano, the resident agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Youngstown, Ohio office.
"It's my belief the drugs were never intended to make it to the dealerships," he told Automotive News. "Certainly the cartel wanted to unload them prior to that."
Balzano said the marijuana was a lower-grade type that typically comes from Mexico.
Ford builds the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ in Hermosillo, Mexico. The vehicles made their way to Ohio by train after crossing the border through Arizona.
"We're aware of the situation and are taking it very seriously," a Ford spokeswoman said in a statement. "We are working with the FBI and Customs on an extensive investigation. We have confirmed that this is not happening at our plant or at our internal shipping yards."
In March, police in Dilworth, Minn., said they found 217 pounds of marijuana packaged the same way in seven vehicles.
Balzano said the local authorities, dealerships and Ford were all cooperative. The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made.