A 54-year-old woman and her daughter were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month for allegedly transporting 10.3 pounds of cocaine in their luggage, authorities said.
The women, who are both citizens of Spain, were en-route to Australia at LAX when their luggage was searched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
During an inspection of the 22-year-old daughter’s checked-in luggage, CBP officers found two plastic packets of chocolate syrup and two plastic packets of salad dressing which felt unusually thick, CBP spokeswoman Lee Harty said.
Further investigation revealed that a clear plastic bag with white paste had been placed inside of the packets. The extracted paste allegedly tested positive for cocaine and weighed 5.5 pounds, Harty said.
During subsequent examination of the mother’s checked-in luggage, officers discovered another syrup packet with a plastic bag hidden inside that contained a yellowish paste-like substance, which also allegedly tested positive for cocaine and weighed 4.8 pounds, Harty said.
“CBP officers use a multi-layered approach in researching and analyzing various patterns of high risk travelers. In this case, that analysis, coupled with the officers’ skills and training, led to this successful interdiction,” said Todd Owen, CBP director of field operations in Los Angeles.
The two women were arrested and taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations division.
Both women are being held without bond. They have both been charged in a criminal complaint with possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, Harty said.
If convicted, each will face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in federal prison, and a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison, Harty said.