Two young New York City women were arrested at Dulles International Airport yesterday and charged with attempting to smuggle $1 million worth of cocaine into the U.S. under their dresses.
Judy Vega. 22, and Iris Martino, 20, both of the Bronx, were apprehended by federal drug officers afer a specially trained dog "showed a particular reaction" to a row of seats on which the women sat on a flight from South America, officers said.
Morris Davis, head of the Washington office of the Drug Enforcement Agency, said the arrests followed by several weeks the arrest of another New York young woman at Dulles on similar charges.
Yesterday's arrests came after officers pulled the two women out of a line awaiting processing through customs and searched them. Two women Customs Service officers found Vega and Martino each had a kilo of cocaine -- about 2.2 pounds -- strapped in plastic bags to their upper legs, officials said.
Davis said the cocaine, an increasing popular drug, would have a retail value of about $1 million.
The women were ordered held in Alexandria jail yesterday in lieu of $25,000 bond each. If convicted on the drug smuggling charge, each could face a 15-year prison sentence and a fine of $25,000, a federal magistrate told them.
One DEA official said large-scale drug smuggling rings increasingly are using young women as their "couriers. "The guys on top like using young girls," he said. "They figure if they send 10 girls out and two get arrested, they have eight who are successful. And girls tend to look more innocent than guys."
The two women arrested yesterday said little about themselves and cried softly as they were led from a hour-long hearing before U.S. Magistrate Quin E. Elson in Alexandria. Vega told Elson she worked as a $135-a-week cosmetics company employe in New York and Martino said she was currently on welfare. Neither said they could afford a lawyer and Elson said he would appoint one for them.
Both women had been in Bolivia earlier this week before departing on a flight to New York that stopped in Lima, Peru, and Washington en route to New York City, DEA officials said.