U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists seized 65 live bonsai plants that were allegedly carried inside the luggage of a passenger arriving from Vietnam at Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month.
Customs officials said agents discovered the plants and seven bulbs, some of which were concealed in coffee bags, inside the luggage at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
The passenger was referred to Agriculture Secondary for inspection, and agriculture specialists gave the passenger the opportunity to verbally amend the declaration but the passenger reportedly insisted on not having fruits, vegetables or plants with the baggage, officials said.
During the x-ray scan, customs officials allegedly discovered several anomalies in the passenger’s suitcases and upon further examination all the prohibited items were detected. The agency assessed a $300 civil penalty to the passenger for failure to declare the propagative materials, customs spokesman Jaime Ruiz said.
The importation of nursery stock into the United States is restricted and in addition to being declared upon arrival, must be accompanied by a valid phytosanitary certificate issued by the country of origin, the agency notes. Plants such as bonsai can often harbor significant agriculture insect pests and diseases.