Jamaica, N.Y. - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers made an unexpected discovery when they inspected the bags of a U.S. citizen returning to the country from Colombia.
On May 11, Robert Lopera arrived on Avianca Flight 824, flying on a one-way cash ticket. Lopera, who is currently unemployed, was selected for an enforcement examination, and he presented two bags for CBP inspection. Upon inspecting one of his bags, CBP officers discovered several boxes of chocolates and a few bags of pistachios. The chocolates and pistachios seemed unusually heavy.
A more intensive examination of these items revealed that the "chocolates" were actually white powder covered in chocolate and the "pistachios" were white pistachio-shaped substances inserted into pistachio shells. The white powdery substances tested positive for cocaine. Subsequently, Lopera was placed under arrest. A total of more than 15 pounds of cocaine with a street value of almost $500,000 was seized.
"CBP officers remain vigilant when conducting enforcement exams," stated Robert E. Perez, director of field operations, New York Field Office. "This seizure is an excellent example of CBP officers using various search methods to prevent dangerous goods from entering the U.S."
Lopera is awaiting federal prosecution and if sentenced, may face significant jail time. This case is being prosecuted by the office of Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of N.Y.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.