US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers discovered a wheelchair stuffed with pounds of cocaine after a US citizen returned from the Dominican Republic and landed at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
According to a CBP press release, a 22yo US male operating an electric wheelchair underwent a full inspection by officers on Tuesday. After examining the wheelchair, officers found four packages containing over 23 pounds of cocaine, hidden within the seat cushion, with an estimated street value of $378k.
Mike Prado, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Charlotte, told local news WBTV on Friday that his team had prior intelligence the man was smuggling drugs into the country through a wheelchair.
"What we did was identify the individual. Agents and inspectors were able to pull him out of line when he was laid over for a connecting flight to Newark, New Jersey," said Prado.
When CBP questioned the man during an interview, his story didn't match up.
"It was readily apparent that there was something suspicious going on so we had probable cause to conduct further investigation and ultimately we were able to determine that he was sitting on 11 kilos of cocaine," said Prado.
The special agent said it's not often people smuggle drugs in a wheelchair through an airport.
"It's unusual for an airport environment generally to have somebody pose as a handicapped person and have a wheelchair stuffed with cocaine. That is definitely something we're more accustomed to seeing at land borders, the southwest border," said Prado.
He also said the attempt to smuggle drugs in a wheelchair shows how desperate some people are to get drugs into the US.
There have been other absurd drug smuggling attempts in the past, including a Brazilian man who tried to hide a kilo of cocaine in his fake butt implants and was intercepted at an airport in Portugal.