The recent arrest at Miami International Airport (MIA) of a Colombian traveler led federal agents to the discovery of a possible heroin-trafficking ring in New York state, according to Miami federal court records.
Carlos María Arias Gómez, 23, was arrested at MIA on Jan. 26 after arriving from Medellín, Colombia, and during an initial interrogation revealed that he had been ordered to deliver the heroin he was carrying to a location in New York state, according to a criminal complaint.
The case is significant because it shows an effort by heroin smugglers to ship the drug to the profitable markets in the Northeast where federal, state and local authorities have expressed alarm about a rising number of deaths related to overdose of the narcotic.
Much of New England, along with New York and other states in the Northeast, are now reporting spikes in overdoses and deaths from heroin use, according to published reports in many news outlets.
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The latest case involving the Colombian traveler unfolded Jan. 26 when Arias Gómez arrived aboard an Avianca flight from Medellín, according to the criminal complaint filed in court by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Randomly, the complaint says, Arias Gómez was selected for further scrutiny in baggage control.
After Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conducted an X-ray examination of Arias Gómez’s backpack, they noticed anomalies, the complaint says.
“CBP officers then probed the backpack, which revealed a brown powdery substance concealed within the bottom lining,” the complaint said. “The powdery substance field tested positive for heroin, and had an approximate weight of 1.79 kilograms.”
HSI declined comment because the case is still in court proceedings. Attorneys for the defendants could not be reached for comment.
CBP issued a statement alluding to the arrest of a Colombian traveler at MIA who carried heroin valued at $210,000. While the CBP statement did not name the Colombian, and said the arrest had occurred Jan. 22, the details of the incident were similar to those reported in the HSI criminal complaint.
After being formally arrested, Arias Gómez told HIS agents in an initial interrogation that his orders were to transport the heroin by bus to a location in New York state and deliver it to an unknown buyer, the complaint says.
For his services, Arias Gómez said he was expecting to be paid $30,000 after the delivery, the complaint says.
Moving quickly to find out more, HIS agents instructed Arias Gómez to contact his supplier and ask for further orders. The complaint says Arias Gómez contacted the supplier by phone and text messages and was told to wait for a wire transfer of funds to buy the bus ticket to New York. Soon thereafter, the complaint says, a transfer of $140 arrived. The complaint does not say where the supplier was located.
After the money arrived, the supplier contacted Arias Gómez again and told him not to buy the bus ticket and instead rent a car and drive to New York with another individual, who was not identified in the complaint. However, a second complaint in a separate case identified the person as Guillermo Serrano.
According to the complaint, the supplier further instructed Arias Gómez to meet Serrano at a hotel just outside MIA.
Agents went to the hotel and arrested Serrano when he arrived, the complaint says.
After his arrest, agents learned the defendant had been promised $1,500 for accompanying Arias Gómez to New York.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy