BALTIMORE (PIX11) – A New Jersey man was caught trying to sneak nearly $1 million worth of cocaine in his wheelchair past airport security, authorities said.
Gabriel Ruiz, 34, of Union City, New Jersey, faces state felony narcotics importation and possession charges after he was arrested in Baltimore on June 20.
Ruiz was caught with more than 30 pounds of cocaine hidden inside his electric wheelchair at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Ruiz was at the airport returning from the Dominican Republic when Customs and Border Protection officers referred him for a secondary examination. Officers performed an X-ray on his Jazzy 614 electric wheelchair and detected irregularities with the seat and back cushions. Officers pulled out 13 plastic-wrapped bricks of cocaine from the wheelchair, authorities said.
“Concealing dangerous drugs inside wheelchair seat cushions is unusual,” said Thomas Heffernan, Acting Area Port Director for Customs and Border Protection’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.”
Authorities said this is the second time in recent weeks someone was caught smuggling cocaine in their wheelchair at an airport. Customs and Border Protection officers in Charlotte, North Carolina, found 23 pounds of cocaine hidden inside a man’s electric wheelchair on May 31. Both men arrested in Baltimore and Charlotte arrived from the Dominican Republic, officials said.