A Fly Jamaica Airways crew member is accused of attempting to smuggle nearly nine pounds of cocaine through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Federal officials said that during a security search late last week, Hugh Hall, a Jamaican citizen, was found to have four packages filled with white powder strapped to his legs and hidden underneath his pants. Authorities confirmed that the substance was cocaine — about $160,000 worth, according to a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Hall was taken into custody Saturday on federal illegal drug smuggling charges, authorities said.
His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday by The Washington Post.
Federal officials said Hall and the other crew members from Fly Jamaica Airways Flight 272 were selected for inspection Saturday at the airport in Queens, N.Y. During pat-downs, Customs and Border Protection agents felt an object around Hall’s leg, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
When questioned by agents, Hall, who was flying from Montego Bay, Jamaica, said that the substance was cocaine, according to the court records.
He appeared in court Monday and was ordered to be detained, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
“This seizure is another example of our CBP officers being ever vigilant in protecting the United States from the distribution of illicit drugs,” Leon Hayward, acting director of the Customs and Border Protection’s New York field operations, said in the statement.
In the United States in 2016, there were more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths amid an opioid epidemic, according to the most recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though it is not an opioid, cocaine is a highly addictive controlled substance and was involved in nearly 6,700 overdose deaths the previous year — or almost 13 percent of the total number of overdose deaths, according to the research.
Cocaine comes from coca leaves grown in South America, and about 90 percent of the powder shipped to the United States is produced in labs in Colombia, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Representatives for Fly Jamaica Airways did not immediately respond Thursday to requests for comment about the incident in New York.