Two young men, ages 20 and 21, were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport recently by agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The men, both U.S. citizens, had returned from a trip to Panama with several cords and ropes that were found to be saturated with cocaine. They could face federal drug charges ranging from possession of a controlled substance to drug importation or drug smuggling.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the ropes and cords weighed about 20 pounds. They were contained in backpacks the men brought into the country from Panama City on March 15. The officers became suspicious when they noticed the ropes and cords had a strange, chemical odor and seemed to be unusually stiff.

When questioned, the young men said they had bought the ropes and cords at a swap meet in Panama. One of the men said he had been planning to use the ropes on a fishing boat he owned. Both apparently denied knowing the items were saturated with cocaine, and they may indeed have been ignorant of that fact.

Those involved in international drug trafficking have been known to use a wide variety of methods to conceal narcotics and other controlled substances from law enforcement, including impregnating cloth and other organic materials with the substances. It seems likely that if cocaine-saturated ropes were being sold at a public market, the seller would not openly discuss the issue with potential buyers, so it may have been a legitimate mistake by the young men.

DHS agents seized the ropes and cords and tested them for the presence of controlled substances. They tested positive for cocaine.

The two men were arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance, but an article in the Los Angeles Times did not say whether any drug charges had actually been filed. Smuggling and importation of cocaine are federal offenses.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Federal officers seize ropes saturated with cocaine at LAX,” Robert J. Lopez, March 22, 2011