City News Service
A Long Beach man is facing federal charges for allegedly attempting to smuggle more than four pounds of methamphetamine out of the U.S. packaged to resemble a well-known brand of candy bar.
Rogelio Mauricio Harris, 34, was arrested Friday by federal customs agents at Los Angeles International Airport as he prepared to board a flight to Japan, according to officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
The arrest came after a routine baggage inspection when officers became suspicious of what appeared to be a large box of Snickers candy bars inside Harris’ checked luggage.
Upon closer inspection, customs officers discovered the 45 individually wrapped, full-sized “candy bars” which contained a white substance that was determined to be methamphetamine, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.
According to court documents, each bar “was coated in a chocolate-like substance to make the contents of the package appear to be a real candy bar.”
Harris is charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in a criminal complaint filed Saturday in Los Angeles federal court. The charge carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in federal prison and a possible maximum of life behind bars.
“This scheme involved considerable planning and preparation and it shows the lengths to which smugglers will go in an attempt to elude detection,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles.
“The fact this ruse was detected should serve as a deterrent for others who might be considering trying similar tactics to conceal dangerous contraband.”
The phony candy bars contained about 1,900 grams, or just over four pounds, of methamphetamine. HSI agents say the seized contraband would have sold for as much as $250,000 on the street in Japan.