Border authorities warn of fake cleaning products

FAR WEST TEXAS — U.S. Customs and Border Protection is warning the public about fake cleaning products after the agency says it seized fake Clorox and other counterfeit cleaning supplies in El Paso.

The bust happened last week at the Bridge of the Americas. Agents were working at the commercial import facility when a driver arrived with a manifest showing he was transporting cleaning products and toilet paper.

While inspecting the vehicle, agents found hundreds of boxes of cleaning supplies, including 168 boxes of Clorox bleach, 98 boxes of Pinol cleaner and 20 boxes of toilet paper.

The agents, though, were suspicious. They noticed that many of the bottles “had no safety seals and appeared to have been tampered with,” CBP stated in a news release. Meanwhile, the bleach-based cleaners “lacked the familiar bleach scent.”

Initial testing of the products by agents — as well as secondary testing by a CBP laboratory — confirmed that the “primary ingredient” in many of the products was “only water,” the agency said. The Clorox Company also told border authorities that its Spanish-label products were not permitted for sale in the United States.

The products were seized, and an investigation is ongoing. The driver has not yet been arrested pending that investigation, a CBP spokesman said.

Hector Mancha, director of field operations for CBP El Paso, condemned the sale of false cleaning products during a global pandemic.

“In the current environment it is reprehensible that someone would attempt a scheme like this to prey upon the concerns and fears of our community, likely for financial gain,” he said in a statement. “Our officers remain focused and attentive to all threats they may encounter.”

In a news release on the incident, CBP put it even more succinctly.

“Smuggling can be a dirty business,” the agency said, “even when it involves cleaning supplies.”