To the naked eye, the UPS parcel contained nothing but an ordinary wooden folding chair and two paintings. Not precisely the "wooden frames" described on the shipping manifest, but nothing that isn't shipped across the country hundreds or thousands of times every day.
But U.S. Customs agents at the UPS distribution center in Louisville, Kentucky were suspicious. Partly because the Dallas-bound package was shipped from Mexico, and partly because, at 50 pounds, it seemed suspiciously heavy.
Agents ran the box through an x-ray scanner, which is how they discovered what was inside. They also discovered that some sections of the chair were denser than others, which was odd, seeing as the wood should have had a consistent density. Drilling into one of the dense sections revealed a white powder: meth.
The package, resealed and made to look like it'd never been open, was diverted from UPS's typical delivery stream. It was hand-delivered to a Homeland Security office in Dallas, where it was locked in a vault for three days before being placed in a UPS truck for delivery to one Juan Francisco Arvizu at an apartment complex off Jim Miller Road in Southeast Dallas.
Disguised as a UPS delivery driver, Special Agent Tom Halsell with the U.S. Postal Service knocked on the apartment door at 12:31 p.m. on May 16. A woman answered the door and signed for the package. Arvizu entered the apartment about 10 minutes later.
Homeland Security agents already had a search warrant and entered the apartment two hours later. Arvizu, according to documents filed in federal court, was an unwitting middle man. The delivery had been arranged by an acquaintance named Salvador Tamayo, who'd asked to have something shipped to the apartment in exchange for $50 to $100. He'd be by soon to pick it up. Arvizu swore he had no idea about the meth.
A half hour later, three uniformed Homeland Security officers answered Tamayo's knock. When he saw that they were cops, he ran back to the white Chevy pickup he'd just stepped out of. But the driver of the truck, Alfredo Limon-Guevara -- who, naturally, had brought his girlfriend and her four-year-old child along to pick up the meth -- had also seen the cops and peeled out of the parking lot just as Tamayo was trying to pull himself in.
Tamayo fell to the parking lot and was handcuffed. Limon was pulled over seconds later by another trio of agents staked out at the complex.
Limon swore that he, too, was an unwitting accomplice, offered $20 by Tamayo to go pick up a package. But agents didn't buy his story, in part because he hauled ass upon seeing the cops, in part because of the Ruger .380 he had in his center console.
Back in the apartment, the chair was dismantled to reveal a black, rectangular package hidden inside each of the legs. All told, the drugs weighed 15 pounds, which was more than enough to charge both Tamayo and Limon with trying to sell more than half a kilogram of meth. That carries 10 years in prison, minimum.