When a Polish man collapsed at Miami International Airport, he was rushed to the hospital — where doctors removed half a kilo of cocaine from his belly. That’s more than a pound of the illegal drug.
In all, surgeons found 53 small rubber sacks inside the stomach of Waldemar Wojtczak, 45, who nearly died from ingesting the narcotics. The pellet-sized sacks were immediately handed over to Miami-Dade narcotics detectives, who had donned scrubs and witnessed the procedure inside the operating room at Hialeah Hospital.
Wojtczak has recovered and was formally charged Monday with cocaine trafficking and the rare state charge of using commercial transport while committing a felony. Through a Polish interpreter, he pleaded not guilty on Monday at his arraignment.
So-called “drug mules” — airline passengers who ingest drugs, usually from Latin America — are far from new in South Florida, although investigators believe their use has waned in recent years.
But Wojtczak is an anomaly. The Polish national, who speaks no English, was on a flight from the island of Trinidad, laying over in Miami before departing for Finland.
Passport records showed he had done similar short trips before from Poland, according to a Miami-Dade police report by Miami-Dade Detective Kiriakos Beruty.
He collapsed inside the airport on Sept. 4 and was rushed to Hialeah Hospital. Although he spoke little English, he managed to tell a doctor that he ingested cocaine, according to the report.
Wojtczak lingered for days in an intensive care unit, unable to pass the pellets, his health worsening. Doctors rushed to perform surgery, with Miami-Dade narcotics detectives on hand to take custody of the pellets.