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U.S. Customs busts Union City man with 13 cocaine bricks in wheelchair

Authorities found 30 lbs. of the drug in the seat cushion

The man was returning from the Dominican Republic in a wheelchair when authorities searched the cushion. Photos by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

A Hudson County man gambled on being a high roller, but his attempt was just a bad bet. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers called his bluff and discovered more than 30 pounds of cocaine concealed inside his electric wheelchair at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshal Airport on June 20.

Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police officers arrested Gabriel Ruiz, a 34-year-old of Union City, on state felony narcotics importation and possession charges on June 21. The State’s Attorney in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is prosecuting Ruiz.

CBP officers referred Ruiz to a secondary examination after he arrived from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. During that secondary examination, officers x-rayed his Jazzy 614 electric wheelchair and detected anomalies within the seat and back cushions.

Officers probed the cushions and extracted 13 plastic-wrapped bricks that contained a white powdery substance. CBP officers used field test kits and a handheld elemental isotope analysis tool and identified the powdery substance as cocaine.

The 13 cocaine bricks weighed a combined 13.7 kilograms, or 30 pounds and three ounces. The cocaine has an estimated street value of nearly $1 million. CBP officers turned Ruiz and the cocaine over to MDTA Police officers.

Thirteen cocaine bricks were recovered in total.

The criminal charges are merely allegations. The defendant are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Interestingly, CBP officers in Charlotte, N.C., also discovered 23 pounds of cocaine concealed inside of a wheelchair on May 31. Both the Baltimore and Charlotte travelers 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.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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