July 31, 2012 -- A California man is in custody after authorities said they found $250,000-worth of meth hidden inside 45 individually-wrapped candy bars in his checked bags.
Rogelio Mauricio Harris, 34, was arrested Friday by ICE agents at Los Angeles International Airport as he prepared to board a flight to Japan.
During a routine baggage inspection, agents with Customs and Border Protection found a cellophane-wrapped box of nearly four dozen candy bars, according to authorities. The candy bars, which were disguised as Snickers, were filled with approximately 1,600 grams, or a little over 4 pounds, of methamphetamine. Officials with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said they believe the contraband would have sold for as much as $250,000 in Japan.
"The box appeared to be professionally wrapped," said Lee Harty, a CBP spokesperson.
Harty said CBP officers noticed something was off when the box of candy bars seemed to weigh more than normal. When officials applied pressure to one of the candy bars, "it did not budge," she said. Once cracked in half, authorities found the chocolate-like exterior was filled with a white substance, which was later determined to be methamphetamine.
Harris is charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. If he is found guilty, he faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.
"This seizure is a great example of the enforcement work that CBP officers perform every day at our ports of entry, to not only keep illegal contraband and illegal criminal proceeds from entering the country, but from leaving the country as well," said Todd Owen, CBP director of field operations in Los Angeles. Other recent smuggling attempts have involved concealing contraband in Easter eggs, snack food bags, and cans of refried beans.
"The fact that this ruse was detected should serve as a deterrent for others who might be considering trying similar tactics to conceal dangerous contraband," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of HSI Los Angeles.
Businessweek has ranked Snickers as the fourth most popular candy bar by sales in the U.S., and the manufacturer of the candy bar, Mars Inc., calls it the best-selling candy bar in the world on its website.