Last May 1, a package from Ecuador arrived at Miami International Airport.
It drew the attention of Customs and Border Protection officers, who ran the package through an x-ray machine and found a laptop inside. The x-ray also showed an “unusual density” within the screen, according to federal court records.
The laptop was removed from the package and the x-ray revealed the presence of three bags within the screen — all containing a white powdery substance that turned out to be approximately 250 grams of cocaine.
It’s just the latest method of concealing cocaine for export. In recent weeks, federal agents have discovered cocaine hidden in banana and yucca boxes, or concealed in pellets and pouches in the groins of air travelers arriving from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Never miss a local story.
Examining the laptop package closely, investigators got a lead. It was addressed to a person named Ricardo Pérez at an address along the 3100 block of Southwest 23rd Street in Miami. When investigators checked records, they could not find a person by that name living at that address.
Then investigators learned that a delivery service was scheduled to take the package to the address on May 5. The delivery service told investigators that a man who identified himself as Ricardo Pérez had called asking whether the package had arrived.
Federal agents, escorted by local police officers, delivered the package to a house with a sign on the front reading Music Academy, according to a criminal complaint filed by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations, a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. An Homeland Security spokesman said he had no comment because the case is still under investigation.
When agents arrived, they saw a man sitting under a canopy in front of the house. The man approached and identified himself as Ricardo Pérez. He signed the delivery receipt and took possession of the package containing the cocaine in the laptop screen.
It was then that agents arrested the man. When a law enforcement officer asked the man for his name, he replied: Ricardo Sánchez. The officer searched Sánchez and found a cell phone. The complaint says Sánchez authorized the officer to search the phone, but noted that the phone was not his since he had just found it. He also told investigators that earlier that day a person from a nearby house asked him to receive a package, the complaint said.
The complaint does not say whether Sánchez eventually agreed to cooperate with investigators or told them who sent the laptop from Ecuador or whether the shipment was part of an international drug-trafficking conspiracy.
Sánchez has since been indicted and is now awaiting trial in detention.
Follow Alfonso Chardy on Twitter @AlfonsoChardy