NEW YORK - A traveler arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York from the Dominican Republic was smuggling cocaine hidden inside her wheelchair on Thursday, Nov. 10, federal authorities said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers interviewed Emelinda Paulino De Rivas, who had gotten off a flight from Punta Cana. They noticed that her wheelchair's wheels weren't turning, officials said. They X-rayed the chair and "noticed an anomaly in all four wheels."
The officers probed the wheels and found a white powder, which tested positive for cocaine, CBP said in a news release. They seized about 28 pounds of cocaine, which has an estimated street value of nearly half a million dollars, the feds said.
The officers arrested De Rivas federal narcotics smuggling charges and turned her over to Homeland Security Investigations.
The agency is "determined in working with our partners to identify the trans-national criminal networks responsible for importing these deadly drugs into our neighborhoods," CBP New York Field Operations Director Francis Russo said in a statement.
De Rivas now faces federal narcotics smuggling charges and will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the U.S. Eastern District Court of New York.
Packets of cocaine found inside the wheels of a wheelchair at JFK Airport. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)