ATLANTA — Nearly three pounds of cocaine were discovered in decorative figurines at Atlanta's airport, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
The figurines were found Tuesday night in the luggage of a 24-year-old traveler who arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from Toncontin, Honduras, CBP said.
An agricultural specialist found anomalies in the figurines after taking an x-ray image. An CBP officer opened up the figurines and found a white-powdery substance that later tested positive as cocaine.
The 2.84 pounds of cocaine found has a street value of about $40,000, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said.
The drugs were seized and the alleged smuggler was sent back to her home country because officers determined she did not know that the figurines contained cocaine.
Friday, CBP officers in Atlanta displayed a table full of heroine, cocaine, ecstasy and other drugs they recently seized from passengers arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson airport from other countries.
“They [CBP Officers] are really good at this, it’s what they do,” said Carey Davis, the Atlanta CBP Area Port Director. “They can judge, based on your travel patterns and the way you’re acting while you’re in front of them…. It could be you’re nervous talking to us, you can actually see someone’s carotid artery pounding when they’re nervous.”
Also on Friday, CBP officers in Savannah announced that this past November they found 1,157 pounds of cocaine, worth $19 Million, hidden inside a shipment of pineapples and other fruit from Colombia.
Officers say they go after all drug smuggling, the big hauls and the smaller ones.
“It’s an extremely serious problem. Do you want your kids having access to this?” he said as he pointed to the table full of seized drugs. “That’s all you need to ask yourself. Do I want this being sold in my school yard? These aren’t being sold in the school yard because CBP did their job.”
In the seizure this week at Hartsfield-Jackson, Director Davis said the CBP Agriculture Specialist used specific training that all officers receive to detect anything that seems out of the norm in the way a passenger is acting or in the way the luggage and its contents appear.
The specific amount of drugs that CBP Officers seize from international arriving passengers every year at Hartsfield-Jackson, compared with the seizures at other U.S. ports of entry was not disclosed.
Officials said that is information drug smugglers would want -- as they constantly try to figure out how to get the drugs into the U.S. undetected.
Nationwide, CBP says its officers seize more than 5,000 pounds of illegal drugs daily, at the more than 300 U.S. ports of entry - air, sea and land.
The seizures are partly the result of a system in which officers are able to track potential smugglers when they’re still overseas, even before they depart for the U.S.
“We have people in Washington that are actually looking at all the airline reservations, looking at who’s coming to the United States,” Davis said, “and we have intelligence specialists that do nothing but try to suss out who might be the bad guy, so that we don’t have to bother with the regular traveler and go through their stuff, we can focus our energy on the people that we suspect.”