Smuggler Caught With Cocaine-Stuffed Liquor Bottles

By Keri Blakinger 10/08/18

The three bottles contained over $100,000 worth of cocaine.

TSA agent inspecting a bag.

A high-flying traveler had an abrupt come-down when authorities collared him at JFK Airport with $115,000 of blow stuffed into bottles of Baileys. 

Akeem Rasheen Lewis allegedly flew into the Queens, New York airport on Sept. 28 with three bottles of liquor in his duty-free bag, according to Customs and Border Protection. But agents at the airport noticed that the bottles appeared to be tampered with, and they pulled Lewis aside to a private search room where they allegedly found three powdery packages wrapped in clear plastic. 

“This seizure demonstrates the dynamic border environment in which CBP officers operate at JFK,” said Frank Russo, the agency's New York Field Operations acting director. “Our officers are determined to adapt and respond to these threats in an effort to protect the American people.”

Lewis was arrested and turned over to Homeland Security Investigations. 

Though the boozy bust raised some eyebrows, it’s not the agency’s weirdest—not even by a long shot. 

Customs and Border Protection officials routinely intercept drugs and other illicit supplies stashed creatively inside vegetables, vehicles and people. 

In 2017, officials uncovered more than $30,000 of pot hidden inside a hearse traveling near Tombstone, Arizona (yes, really). That same year, they turned up 40 pounds of meth hidden in the bumpers of a car in Texas. In another bust, authorities found 80 pounds of pot and coke hidden inside buckets of grease near the Mexican border. 

Then there were the cans of tuna and corn actually filled with seven pounds of blow, the shipment of lettuce covering 3,700 pounds of pot, the speaker box full of heroin and the shipment of key limes that were actually poorly disguised packets of marijuana. And that was all just in 2017. 

One of this year’s juiciest border busts happened in the spring, when agents in Texas stopped a tractor-trailer hauling 41 pounds of heroin hidden inside a supposed shipment of tomatoes

The 18-wheeler was trying to pass through the checkpoint at the Pharr International Bridge when drug-sniffing dogs got a whiff of something amiss. Inside, they found roughly $1.6 million of smack. 

Even though there are some consistent favorites when it comes to smuggling, traffickers in recent years have branched out and gotten creative, turning to drones, catapults and air compression guns. And, to get around border walls and vigilant agents, smugglers have started using speedboats to zip over from Mexico and bring in clandestine supplies, according to a New York Times report last year.

From 2011 to 2016, authorities detected more than 300 such attempts to traffic by sea—and that’s only the ones they caught. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

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.