When Juan Fernando Mosquera arrived at Miami International Airport on a flight from Bogotá on Aug. 13, he was admitted into the country at passport control without problems.
Trouble arose as soon as he reached the customs area where his baggage was checked.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered a white powdery substance concealed inside 36 film reels packed inside the defendant’s luggage,” according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.
The bigger surprise came when Mosquera indicated he was connected to National Geographic, the well-known nonprofit scientific and educational institution.
“The defendant advised he was bringing the film reels to National Geographic from production in the Amazon and this was his third time doing this,” according the criminal complaint filed by Homeland Security Investigations, a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “The defendant also advised that he gets paid $5,000 each time for bringing the film reels into the United States.”
The estimated weight of the cocaine inside the film reels was 3.6 kilos, according to the criminal complaint.
Customs officers regularly find cocaine and other drugs concealed in various items, including laptops, they inspect at the Miami airport. But it’s not common for the officers to come across drugs in reels of film about the Amazon.
Homeland Security said it had no comment on an ongoing court case. Mosquera’s attorney also declined to comment. National Geographic said it had no connection to Mosquera.
“We do not have any record of working with Juan Fernando Mosquera,” National Geographic spokeswoman Ann Day said in an email to el Nuevo Herald.
Mosquera, 26, has since been indicted by a federal grand jury, and pleaded not guilty to the charges of importation and possession with intent to distributed a controlled substance.
The maximum prison sentence listed in the indictment is 20 years, though he could get less if he strikes a deal with the prosecutors and pleads guilty.