The way investigators tell it, accused drug trafficker Javier Madrigal convinced a deputy who pulled him over a few weeks ago that the reddish, coagulated liquid in his truck's extra fuel tank was bad diesel from Mexico.
The deputy had never seen anything like it and let Madrigal go. But as Madrigal barreled away, the supposed fuel that had splashed on the deputy's pants began to crystallize, according to court papers.
The lawman had been played by the latest trick in the smugglers' handbook. The "bad diesel" was a liquefied batch of wildly popular methamphetamine, easily worth more than $1 million.
And it was rolling away toward Houston, America's fourth-largest city.
Madrigal later was busted and awaits trial. But his supposed criminal caper is further proof of what authorities say is an increase in the amount of methamphetamine flowing to the United States from Mexico.
It now rivals cocaine and prescription pills as the narcotic of choice in many areas, even surpassing the longtime crack menace.