The latest heroin case in South Florida unfolded last month when a traveler from Honduras arrived at Miami International Airport (MIA).
Edgar Geovanny Waller Maradiaga, 29, was arrested at MIA June 13 after Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers discovered heroin hidden in his luggage.
While the amount found in the luggage, 2.8 kilos, was not extraordinary, the case nonetheless set off alarms because heroin is now deemed as a highly dangerous drug.
The National Heroin Threat Assessment, released May 22 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), says heroin use and availability is on the rise and causing more overdose deaths than at any time in the last decade.
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“Although fewer people presently use heroin than other illicit drugs, the heroin user population is growing at a faster rate than any other drug of abuse, almost doubling between 2007 and 2013 – from 161,000 to 289,000,” the DEA report said.
It cited figures from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control. It said deaths involving heroin more than tripled between 2007 (2.402) and 2013 (8,260).
As to the MIA case, the suspect, Maradiaga, was cleared to enter the United States at passport control, but he was detained when he showed up at customs with his luggage.
“During a secondary examination, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers discovered a powdery substance concealed inside a false siding of the defendant’s luggage,” according to a criminal complaint filed by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
An HIS spokesman declined comment on the ground the case is still under investigation.
The criminal complaint did not say if Maradiaga is part of a heroin smuggling ring. He was indicted June 26 and pleaded not guilty. The trial has been scheduled for August.
The case is only the latest involving the illegal importation of heroin through a South Florida airport.
Last year, federal agents arrested a Colombian at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport after he admitted swallowing capsules filled with heroin.
Harold Edwin Hernández Calderón was taken into custody on Sept. 23 after he told airport passport control officers about the capsules and then went to the bathroom and expelled them.
The capsules were later counted (34) and weighed (1.7 kilograms).
Hernández pleaded guilty Jan. 6 and on April 3 was sentenced to 46 months in prison.