- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A New Jersey man was caught with nearly $1 million worth of cocaine stuffed inside his electric wheelchair after flying into BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport from the Dominican Republic, according to authorities.

U.S. Customers and Border Patrol said Tuesday that they arrested and charged Gabriel Ruiz, 34, of Union City, New Jersey, on state felony narcotics importation and possession charges on June 21 following his flight back from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Authorities flagged Mr. Ruiz for a secondary examination where CBP officers x-rayed his wheelchair and “detected anomalies within the seat and back cushions.” That’s when the officers probed his wheelchair and found 13 plastic-wrapped bricks that had a white powdery substance inside.

A field test confirmed that Mr. Ruiz was carrying cocaine, with the 13 bricks weighing just over 30 pounds.

“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.”

CBP said that the State’s Attorney in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is prosecuting Ruiz.

• Matt Delaney can be reached at mdelaney@washingtontimes.com.

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