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NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico (Reuters) - U.S. customs officials have seized a statue of Jesus Christ made from plaster mixed with cocaine -- the latest sophisticated attempt to smuggle drugs from Mexico.
Sniffer dogs at the border crossing in Laredo, Texas, alerted officials to the smell of narcotics in the 6.6 pound (3 kilo) statue, which was in the trunk of a car being driven by a Mexican woman into the United States last week.
"The statue tested positive for cocaine," Nancy Herrera, an official at the U.S. Attorney's Office Southern District of Texas said on Friday.
U.S. border police arrested a 61-year-old Mexican man accused of offering the woman $80 to carry the statue to the bus station in downtown Laredo.
The woman escaped back to Mexico, Herrera said.
Tighter U.S. security and Mexico's deployment of thousands of soldiers along the border are pushing smugglers to try increasingly sophisticated techniques like hiding drugs in sealed beer cans, U.S. officials say.
The average price of a gram of pure cocaine in the United States is around $130, according to U.S. government data.
Reporting by Robin Emmott