Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested a California man after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized 72 pounds of marijuana on Monday from baggage being loaded onto an Ireland-bound flight at Philadelphia International Airport.
The traveler, Bryan Nelson Gonzalez Rodriguez, 34, of Monterey Park, Calif., faces state felony charges of narcotics possession with intent to distribute.
CBP officers conducted outbound inspections on the flight destined to Dublin Airport when an x-ray exam revealed anomalies in two suitcases. A CBP narcotics detector dog then alerted to the two suitcases.
CBP officers identified the traveler associated with the two suitcases at the departure gate and took him and the suitcases to CBP’s inspection station for examination. Inside the suitcases, officers discovered numerous black vacuum-sealed packs of marijuana.
The marijuana weighed a combined 32.74 kilograms, or 72 pounds, three ounces. It has a street value of about $160,000 in the U.S.; however, high quality U.S. marijuana can fetch prices many times higher throughout other parts of the world. For example, the street price of marijuana in some parts of Ireland fetches about $400 an ounce, or about $460,000 for this load.
HSI special agents and task force officers arrived on scene, took custody of the marijuana, and referred the traveler for criminal prosecution.
Criminal charges are merely allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
“It is unusual to encounter travelers today who attempt to smuggle bulk amounts of marijuana in passenger baggage to overseas destinations. Bulk marijuana smuggling remains illegal, and Customs and Border Protection officers will continue to deliver consequences when we encounter it,” said Rene Ortega Acting Area Port Director for CBP’s Area Port of Philadelphia.
CBP officers and agents seized an average of 2,895 pounds of dangerous drugs every day at our nation’s air, land and sea ports of entry.