California smugglers disguise drugs as spices, noodles

December 17, 2023


Federal prosecutors announced on Friday they had filed charges against four California men who allegedly smuggled drugs disguised as noodles, spices and car parts to other countries.

As part of a transnational drug trafficking organization, the suspects exported large amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine – concealed within commercial products such as instant noodle packets, car parts, emergency kits, and subwoofers – to Australia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand.

In a shipment sent to Australia in summer 2018, the group allegedly smuggled 860 pounds of methamphetamine concealed in packets of instant noodles and mushroom seasoning. In Sept. 2018, the men exported 249 pounds of methamphetamine and over 220 pounds of cocaine disguised as garlic seasoning.

Additional shipments in Oct. 2018, Nov. 2019, Feb. 2020, and Aug. 2020 were allegedly concealed in emergency kits, car parts, subwoofers, and customized metal boxes.

In June 2021, the suspects organized the shipment of over 330 pounds of methamphetamine concealed in food storage buckets for export to Papua New Guinea, according to the indictment. Finally, in Aug. and Sept. 2022, a suspect allegedly arranged for the export of more than 70 pounds of methamphetamine concealed in meals ready-to-eat packets to New Zealand.

Law enforcement arrested Hoang Xuan Le, 42, a.k.a. “Big Bro,” “Blue,” and “Knockout,” of Tustin, and Tri Cao Buinguyen, 38, a.k.a. “Bro” and “Mango,” of Garden Grove on Thursday. The suspects face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“This case is the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and HSI,” according to a press release. “The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.”


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