BALTIMORE, Md. - More than 30 pounds of cocaine was found inside a man's electric wheelchair at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport last week.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers made the drug bust and Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police officers arrested Gabriel Ruiz, 34, of Union City, N.J.
Authorities say CBP officers referred Ruiz on June 20 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 the powdery substance was confirmed to be cocaine.
CBP officers subsequently turned Ruiz and the cocaine over to MDTA Police officers. He faces state felony narcotics importation and possession charges.
The State’s Attorney in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is prosecuting Ruiz.
"Concealing dangerous drugs inside wheelchair seat cushions is unusual," said Thomas Heffernan, Acting Area Port Director for CBP’s Area Port of Baltimore 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 drug gangs’ creatively concealed contraband."
Authorities say 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, according to officials.
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.