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Federal agents seize 5,700 pounds of ‘precursor’ chemicals at LAX – enough to make $40 million of meth

Customs and Border Protection

This large shipment of methylamine was intercepted by CBP agents at LAX in September 2011. The recent seizure at LAX was about twice as large.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seize a lot of stuff at LAX in the course of their work -- erectile dysfunction chemicals, wanted fugitives, threatening beetles.

But one thing the CBP agents seem to encounter above all else is methylamine hydrochloride, a chemical used to make methamphetamines.

The latest seizure came earlier this month, agents announced today, as 5,700 pounds of the chemical -- several barrels’ worth -- were headed through LAX from China on their way to Mexico.

The Daily News reports that two shipments were intercepted on April 19 and 23. The chemicals theoretically could have been used to make roughly 3,600 pounds of meth -- worth about $40 million. They can also be used to make ecstasy.

Or they can be used for legitimate purposes. The CBP states that “Methylamine hydrochloride is a corrosive, flammable, strong odor chemical essential to manufacture methamphetamine and ecstasy. Methylamine hydrochloride has legitimate industrial applications in pesticides, solvents and pharmaceutical products.”

Whatever it’s made for, methylamine must be declared under the Controlled Substances Act -- and these shipments weren’t, CBP agents say.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is an arm of Homeland Security tasked with regulating international trade. It is not the same as the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, which recently drew negative attention after four of its officers were caught allegedly helping to smuggle drugs into the country through LAX.

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