U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Otay Mesa cargo port of entry Thursday seized nearly 16 tons of marijuana hidden in a cargo shipment of mattresses. Photo courtesy of CBP

The seizure of nearly 16 tons of marijuana found stuffed in a big rig that entered Otay Mesa Port of Entry this week was the largest-ever drug bust at the facility and second-biggest to occur at any border crossing in the nation, federal officials said Friday.

The cannabis-laden tractor-trailer pulled into the southern San Diego inspection and processing station about 6 p.m. Thursday, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

During an X-ray examination, agents noticed suspicious-looking objects in the vehicle, which supposedly was carrying a load of mattresses and cushions. Opening the cargo compartment, the personnel found 1,296 packages containing a combined total of roughly 31,600 pounds of marijuana — nearly 16 tons.

The illicit haul would have had a street value of about $18.9 million, authorities said.

The driver, a 46-year-old Mexican citizen with a valid border-crossing card, was arrested and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His name was not released.

Previously, the largest single narcotics seizure at the Otay Mesa port was 19,999 pounds of pot, in 2003, according to CBP officials.

The largest-ever load of dope confiscated at a U.S. border-crossing station took place at Calexico East Port of Entry in 2013, netting 35,265 pounds of marijuana.

— City News Service

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