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Today’s travel lesson? ‘Trusted’ travelers don’t smuggle

The stash of illegal chickpeas and popcorn that a Pennsylvania couple tried to bring into the U.S. illegally. Photo courtesy of U.S. Customers and Border Protection
The stash of chickpeas and popcorn that a Pennsylvania couple tried to bring into the U.S. illegally. Photo courtesy of U.S. Customers and Border Protection

Some rules of travel seem obvious. But sometimes it seems folks need a reminder.

Earlier this month we wrote about the record number of guns seized at TSA checkpoints in 2013 and pondered why people keep packing them in their carry on bags when they know guns aren’t allowed.

Today, we have another tip for travelers from the University of Obvious.

Trusted travelers — especially trusted travelers in the Global Entry program sponsored by U.S. Customs and Border Protection — don’t smuggle food into the country.

On Tuesday, a couple from West Chester, Pa.,  attempted to smuggle about 30 pounds of undeclared and prohibited food products from India through Washington Dulles International Airport,  authorities said. The people were “trusted travelers,” a special status given to travelers who pay $100 fee and undergo a rigorous background check that includes an interview. The “trusted” status allows them to speed through screening by making their declarations at special automated kiosks.

CPB officials said the couple returned from India through Dubai and went to the Global Entry self-help kiosk to make their declarations. Neither of them said they had any food products. CBP officers, however, referred for secondary inspection.

The couple again said they did not have any food in the eight pieces of luggage they’d returned home with. More questioning followed and they told officers they had only sweets and spices.  But when a CBP agriculture specialist passed each bag through an X-ray, “anomalies” were detected in seven of the eight bags. After further examination, agents found about 25 pounds of chick peas and five pounds of popcorn with green curry leaves — which, yes, you guessed properly, are not allowed.

(NOTE: Chickpeas from India are prohibited due to the possible introduction of harmful plant diseases and insect pests, such as the highly destructive Khapra beetle.)

Bottom line: trust broken.

In addition to a $500 fine, the couple are no longer trusted travelers.


Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.



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