Jamaica, N.Y. - Rafael Antonio Fernandez Martinez, a Bronx bound visitor form the Dominican Republic, was apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at JFK Airport, when he was caught with nearly 11 pounds of cocaine in his luggage. The cocaine was concealed within a wooden mortar that is typically used to ground food.
On December 21, 2009, CBP officers selected Mr. Martinez for a routine baggage inspection after arriving on a flight from Santiago, Dominican Republic. The checked luggage Mr. Martinez was in possession of contained two wooden mortars. Officers noticed that the mortars were unusually heavy and conducted an X-ray examination; which showed anomalies within. A more intrusive inspection revealed a white powdery substance contained within the center of the wooden mortar which field tested positive for cocaine.
"CBP is dedicated to its mission of protecting our nation's borders," said Robert E. Perez, director of Field Operations for the New York Field Office. "These highly skilled officers are committed to intercepting any threat or illicit activity before it adversely affects our nation's communities."
The narcotics seized during this inspection carried a street value more than $335,000. An ongoing investigation is being conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District Court of New York. Mr. Martinez was arraigned at U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. If convicted, Mr. Martinez may face significant jail time.
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.