A New Jersey man has been roughed up after federal officials arrested him at a Maryland airport attempting to smuggle more than 30 pounds of cocaine into the country.
Gabriel Ruiz, 34, a resident of Union City, NJ, was arrested by members of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Department when investigators called his bluff and seized cocaine that was concealed in his electric wheelchair at Thurgood Marshal International Airport in Baltimore Washington.
Ruiz was arrested on Monday, June 20 and charged with state importation and possession of narcotics on Tuesday, June 21, federal officials announced on Tuesday, June 28.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested Ruiz at Baltimore airport after he arrived from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for a secondary examination.
During that examination, officials said officers x-rayed his Jazzy 614 power wheelchair and found abnormalities in the seat and back cushions. Officers then probed the cushions and extracted 13 plastic-wrapped bricks that contained a white powdery substance.
Field test kits determined the white stuff was allegedly cocaine.
The 13 bricks of cocaine weighed a total of 13.7 kilograms, or 30 pounds and three ounces. The drugs have an estimated street value of nearly $1 million.
Border Patrol agents turned Ruiz over to Maryland Transportation Authority police officers, who laid the charges against him.
“Concealing dangerous drugs inside wheelchair seat cushions is unusual,” Thomas Heffernan, acting regional port manager for CBP’s Baltimore Regional Port, said in a statement.
“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 contraband creatively concealed by drug gangs.”
Ruiz is being prosecuted by the state’s attorney in Anne Arundel County in Maryland.
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