By Sadef Ali Kully
Days apart Customs and Border Protection arrested two Avianca Airlines passengers trying to smuggle in heroin with a street-market value of more than $120,000 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the federal agency said.
The incidents occurred on March 26 and April 1.
One passenger from Colombia stuffed his underwear with heroin cylinders and another passenger from Guatemala filled a seat-cushion with heroin bags in his luggage, federal officials said.
On April 1, Ivan Vidal-Forero, a Colombian citizen, arrived at from Bogota and presented himself for inspection. Customs and Border Protection officers escorted the passenger to a private search room where they conducted a physical search and discovered two cylinders in the subject’s groin area, said the federal agency.
The two cylinders contained a brown powdery substance that tested positive for heroin, they said. An approximate weight of 2 pounds of heroin was seized, with an estimated street value of more than $61,000, according to the CBP.
A few days before on March 26t, an Avianca Airlines passenger, Esteban Ortiz-Ramos, a Guatemalan citizen, arrived at Kennedy from Guatemala via San Salvador and presented himself for inspection in the Arrivals Hall of Terminal Four.
Custom and Border officers identified luggage belonging to Ortiz-Ramos and brought it to a search room for further examination, where they found a seat cushion and after probing it discovered a brown powdery substance that tested positive for heroin.
Some 2 pounds of heroin was seized, which CBP estimates the street value to be more than $66,000, according to the agency.
“This seizure is just another example of our CBP officers being ever vigilant in protecting the United States from the distribution of these illicit drugs,” said Robert E. Perez, director of CBP’s New York Field Operations.
Both men were placed under arrest and turned over to Homeland Security to face federal narcotics smuggling charges.
The CPB said it is always discovering new concealment methods and pointed out hiding heroin in a seat cushion is another unscrupulous way a smuggler will attempt to transport illegal drugs into the United States.
In 2012, heroin from South America accounted for 51 percent of the heroin in the United States analyzed through the DEA Heroin Signature Program.
There are 53 million domestic and international passengers who travel through Kennedy a year, according to the 2014 Port Authority annual travel report.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull