Customs Agents Find 27 Pounds Of Cocaine Hidden In Motorized Wheelchair

By Keri Blakinger 06/16/17

A 33-year-old women was arrested at JFK for allegedly smuggling 10 bricks of coke in her wheelchair.

motorized wheelchair filled with cocaine
via US Customs and Border Patrol

A woman accused of riding a cocaine-filled motorized wheelchair around JFK Airport was arrested last week after authorities spotted something amiss with the chair’s lumpy seat cushion. 

Yoncela Stanley allegedly stashed 27 pounds of blow in her wheelchair when she flew into the New York City airport on June 11. A U.S. resident, the 33-year-old had just exited a flight from St. Lucia when Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers took a closer look at her chair’s back seat cushion. 

When authorities called over a drug dog to make a closer inspection of the suspicious seat, the canine’s sharp nose confirmed the presence of drugs and officers removed the cushion. Inside, they found a drug-smuggling jackpot including 10 bricks of blow valued at about $468,000. 

After the bust, Stanley was arrested and handed over to Homeland Security. She is now facing federal drug smuggling charges and was held on $50,000 bail after a Monday arraignment in Brooklyn Federal Court, according to the New York Daily News

“This latest seizure demonstrates the vigilance of our CBP officers, and their excellence in detecting those who would try to smuggle these illegal substances,” said Leon Hayward, acting director of field operations for New York.

Although it may seem like a bold approach to drug smuggling, this certainly isn’t the first time an enterprising wheelchair-bound flier has tried sneaking drugs across a border.

In 2009, a 92-year-old woman in a wheelchair strapped cocaine to her body before a flight to Madrid. Spanish officials stopped her after discovering almost 10 pounds of the drug clinging to her legs and torso. 

The elderly woman and her younger 44-year-old companion were both arrested. The younger woman was eventually ordered to prison but the 92-year-old was sent to a senior citizens’ home in Spain. Given her age, it was considered “practically impossible” that she would face trial or do time, authorities said.

In 2015, a wheelchair-bound Scottish woman made the news after she tried using Scooby Doo talcum powder bottles to smuggle coke into the country. Myrtle McCreath was recruited by Brazilian drug gangs and agreed to pick up dozens of drug-laden bottles in South America before flying back to Glasgow Airport. Ultimately, she was sentenced to seven years in prison. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.