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From giant squid to wooden legs, drug smugglers get creative

Texas border agents find more than 30 pounds of marijuana hidden inside several large paintings of Jesus. NBC's Dan Scheneman reports.

Twelve pounds of marijuana mysteriously taped to a bus seat has landed an Arizona mom of seven in a Mexican jail, possibly facing time behind bars even as she insists she had nothing to do with the weed.

Through the years, drug traffickers have come up with hiding places for their product that are far more clever and bizarre than the underside of a seat.

They've carved out caches on every conceivable part of a motor vehicle — replacing seat stuffing, filling bumpers and even replacing gas tanks with cocaine, pot, methamphetamine and heroin.

Authorities in Mexico seized more than a ton of cocaine that was hidden inside frozen sharks. Dara Brown reports.

In just the last few months, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have seized 2,000 jalapeno cans filled with marijuana in Nogales, Ariz.; 300 pounds of pot among hay bales in a pickup in Del Rio, Texas; three pounds of meth strapped to a man's inner thighs in Salton City, Calif.; and 600 pounds of marijuana in plaster figurines in El Paso.

Here are some of the even more imaginative schemes used by drug mules:

Unholy discovery: Canadian border agents examining bibles in luggage from flights coming from the Caribbean in 2007 found nearly $1 million on cocaine. The smugglers unglued or slit the covers of the good books and slid flat plastic bags with the drugs inside, authorities said. The tipoff was that the tomes weighed too much, even for heavy reading.

Quite a bust: A Panamanian woman who showed up to the airport in Barcelona with bloody bandages on her chest in December was taken to a hospital where doctors removed two breast implants containing three pounds of cocaine. The woman drew extra scrutiny because she was coming to Spain from Colombia.

Hair-raising experience: When customs officers at New York's Kennedy Airport patted down two women arriving from Guyana last September, they felt suspicious bulges on their heads. It turned out the visitors had more than four pounds of cocaine under their wigs and weaves, officials said.

One-legged runners: German authorities arrested a Colombian man in 1993 who had seven pounds of cocaine stashed in his wooden leg; he'd been promised three dollars for every gram he delivered (and seven pounds equals about 3175 grams by the way, so that's over $9000). And in 2011, a South Carolina trooper patting down a man during a traffic stop felt and smelled a packet of cocaine jammed between the man's upper leg and lower prosthesis, they said.

Junk in the trunk: A Brazilian man dressed as a woman was diverted from an Europe-bound flight in March after police received a tip that he was smuggling drugs. When they got to the bottom of it, they found three pounds of cocaine in the buttocks of padded underwear, along with a cellphone containing his contacts in Brussels.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Drug smugglers carve out secret compartments in border-crossing vehicles, like this one that hid 266 pounds of marijuana when it was seized in El Paso earlier this month, officials said.

Coke au vin: A Nigerian mechanic returning home  last year after six years in Brazil cooked up an unusual plan to get some cocaine past the police: he stuffed almost six pounds of it into roasted chickens. Investigators quickly spotted the egg-shaped aluminum packets in the birds' cavities.

Smuggler's best friend: An Italian drug gang turned dogs into mules, officials announced in March. Some 50 St. Bernards, Great Danes, Labradors, and mastiffs were forced to ingest almost three pounds of cocaine in capsules. The smugglers would kill the dogs after they arrived to extract the drugs, officials said.

So long, suckers: Peruvian police seized 1,500 pounds of cocaine hidden in giant frozen squid in 2004. Covered in pepper to throw off sniffer dogs, the cephalopods were bound for Mexico and the United States, where it would have been worth $17 million on the street.

Diving under the influence: An Ecuadorean drug ring funneled narcotics to New York City by secreting them in empanadas, retail-ready boxes of food and candies. But the most unusual method they used was soaking bogus diplomas from a scuba-diving school in three pounds of liquid cocaine, officials said.

Information for this article was drawn from the Associated Press, Reuters, ANSA, Agence-France Presse, the Toronto Sun, Worldcrunch and the Anderson, S.C., Independent Mail

U.S. Customs and Border Protecti

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations officers working at the El Paso port of entry seized 591 pounds of marijuana on May 1. The drugs were hidden within plaster figurines, columns, and other items imported from Mexico. The estimated street value of the seized contraband is $473,000.