PHILADELPHIA: The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says officers from the Area Port of Philadelphia have seized the largest local cocaine load in 10 years when they discovered 709 pounds concealed inside cabinets that was shipped from Puerto Rico.
As a result of the seizure, CBP on Monday said that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark’s Office, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, initiated an investigation that is still active.
The cocaine weighed 321.64 kilograms – just over 709 pounds, and had a street value of about US$22 million.
While examining shipping containers at a seaport in Pennsauken, New Jersey on November 2, CBP said officers “detected an anomaly in one and transported that container to CBP’s Centralized Examination Station in Philadelphia.
“Officers emptied the contents of the container, and, after thorough inspection, discovered false walls in numerous pieces of bedroom furniture and kitchen cabinets,” CBP said. “The false compartments concealed 256 bricks of a white powdery substance that field tested positive for cocaine.”
Additionally, officers discovered a nearly 30-pound cocaine load at the same seaport November 28 concealed inside a wooden chest. That load, 13.56 kilograms with an estimated street value of about US$900,000, was shipped from Puerto Rico and destined for an address in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.
“Customs and Border Protection knows that transnational drug trafficking organisations will take advantage of natural disasters, and, in this case, an island struggling to recovering from a crippling hurricane, to smuggle dangerous drugs to our nation’s mainland,” said Joseph Martella, CBP Acting Area Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia.
“CBP officers remain ever vigilant to interdict narcotics loads, and we are pleased to have stopped this deadly poison shipment before it could hurt our communities,” he added.
This is CBP’s largest cocaine seizure in Philadelphia since officers intercepted 864 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipping container from the Dominican Republic March 8, 2007, CBP said. It was CBP’s second significant cocaine seizure from Puerto Rico since officers discovered 386 pounds of cocaine that was concealed throughout the body of a pick-up truck on July 9, 2012.
“This seizure is an excellent example of how Customs and Border Protection officers leverage imaging technology to detect and intercept an immense amount of cocaine cleverly concealed in a shipment of furniture,” said Casey Owen Durst, CBP’s Field Operations Director in Baltimore, the agency’s operational commander in the mid-Atlantic region.
“Narcotics interdiction remains an enforcement priority for Customs and Border Protection, and a mission that we take very serious.”
CBP said officers routinely conduct random inspections operations on international passengers and cargo and searches for narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products.
On a typical day, CBP said agents seize 7,910 pounds of illicit drugs along the US’ borders.