A Word of Caution for International Travelers

I recently had a client who was a 25+ year employee of a major airline. She was traveling back from Peru to New York, where she lives, but had to change planes in Atlanta. While going through a secondary inspection of her luggage, Customs agents discovered about 13 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside some handicrafts she had been asked to bring back. She was promptly arrested and taken to the Clayton County Detention Center, where she was charged with trafficking in cocaine.

The client and her family insisted that she did not know that items she was carrying contained cocaine. She said that they had been provided to her by someone she had known for a few years and who was undergoing treatment for cancer. That person told her that she had a friend in New York who was going to sell the handicrafts to raise money for her medical bills. My client knew that her luggage would probably be inspected when she went through Customs in the U.S., and took the precaution of inspecting the items before taking them to the airport. She didn’t observe anything unusual about the handicrafts, and the person who asked her to carry them was a “friend.” Unfortunately, that was not enough.

We managed to obtain a bond within a few days of her arrest, and about two months later we were able to satisfy the District Attorney’s Office that my client had been duped and that she had no knowledge that she was carrying narcotics. The D.A. agreed not to indict the case, and all charges were dismissed! Not everyone in the same situation is as lucky.

I frequently travel overseas. I make it a practice not to carry anything for anyone. I caution you to do the same; you just never know.