A New Jersey man was arrested after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered more than 30 pounds of cocaine concealed in his electric wheelchair at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport last week, the agency said Tuesday.
Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police officers arrested Gabriel Ruiz, 34, of Union City on state felony narcotics importation and possession charges on June 21.
According to CBP, officers conducted a secondary examination of Ruiz after he arrived from Punta Cana, Dominican Republican and x-rayed his electric wheelchair, allegedly detecting anomalies in the seat and back cushions.
When officers probed the cushions and extracted 13 plastic-wrapped cocaine bricks weighing a total of around 30 pounds with an estimated street value of nearly $1 million.
This is not the first time that CBP in Charlotte also discovered 23 pounds of cocaine concealed inside of a wheelchair on May 31. That traveler also arrived from the Dominican Republic.
“Concealing dangerous drugs inside wheelchair seat cushions is unusual,” said Thomas Heffernan, Acting Area Port Director for CBP’s Area Port of Baltimore. “Transnational criminal organizations work very hard to conceal their illicit drugs, but this cocaine seizure proves once again that Customs and Border Protection officers are up to the task of protecting our communities by finding the drug gangs’ creatively concealed contraband.” CBP officers and agents seized an average of 4,732 pounds of dangerous drugs every day at our nation’s air, land and sea ports of entry.”
Attorney information for Ruiz was not immediately known.