Cocaine seized at port highlights air, land, sea pipelines

More than 20 pounds seized in single backpack, valued at $650,000

February 12, 2011|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized last week more than 20 pounds of cocaine found in a shipping container at the Baltimore seaport, the latest case highlighting how illegal drugs make their way into the city.

The drugs were discovered Wednesday, wrapped in eight bricks and placed in a blue backpack that was found in a container of steel parts. The ship had travelled from China through Panama to the United States, officials said.

The cocaine was estimated to have a street value of $650,000. No arrests were made.

Over the past few weeks, several cases have illustrated how drugs get into Baltimore by air, land and sea:

•A federal court trial involving a drug deal at an Inner Harbor hotel included testimony from a confessed Mexican cartel associate who described driving millions of dollars worth of cocaine across the country in a motor home.

•A case charged in California alleges that hundreds of pounds of cocaine were being regularly shipped into Baltimore via private planes to Martin State Airport in Middle River.

•Along with the seaport seizure this week, several Royal Caribbean employees were arrested in December after drugs were smuggled into Baltimore aboard their cruise ship. Another search of the ship later in the month turned up more drugs.

At the port, customs officers were able to locate the cocaine using high-energy imaging technology that doesn't require opening the containers, officials said. "Non-intrusive technology allows CBP officers a quick and clear picture of a conveyance's contents so that we can expedite release of legitimate commercial goods and detain anomalous containers for a more hands-on inspection," Ricardo Scheller, Customs and Border Protection port director of the port of Baltimore, said in a news release.

No arrests have been made in Wednesday's seizure.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com



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