Crime

Passenger arrested at MIA on drug-trafficking charges awaits trial

A traveler who arrived from Peru at Miami International Airport (MIA) last month is now awaiting trial in Miami federal court on drug-trafficking charges after customs authorities discovered 7.9 kilos of cocaine hidden in his luggage.

Max Jeri, 50, was indicted after his arrest by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials when they found the cocaine in his bags, court records say.

Jeri’s arrest is only the latest in a series of recent discoveries of attempted drug shipments at MIA as drug-trafficking organizations seek to diversify their methods of transporting narcotics.

Last month, federal agents arrested a traveler from Guatemala who received a package containing heroin disguised as flour outside a Mexican restaurant in Manchester, Vermont — days after the shipment was first spotted in Miami by investigators.

The Jeri case began Oct. 9 when the defendant arrived at MIA aboard American Airlines flight 918 from Lima, the Peruvian capital, according to a criminal complaint filed in Miami federal court.

CBP officers suspected something and ordered a more thorough inspection of Jeri’s belongings, according to the complaint filed by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“During a seconday examination, U.S. Customs and Border Protection discovered in Jeri’s luggage approximately 7.95 kilograms of cocaine, hidden inside of purses, books, jackets, bottles, and decorative pillows, in both liquid and powder format,” according to the complaint.

After being arrested, Jeri told investigators how he came to be in possession of the alleged cocaine load, according to the complaint.

“Jeri advised that his ticket had been purchased by a friend that had asked him to deliver two pieces of luggage,” the complaint said. “Jeri advised that he had previously flown to Lima, Peru for his friend to drop off bags in Peru in October 2014.”

The complaint did not identify Jeri’s friend and did not say if he or she was arrested.

Jeri was indicted Oct. 22. He pleaded not guilty and is now awaiting trial.

The indictment charged Jeri with importation of cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. If found guilty, the defendant could be sentenced to a maximum of 40 years in prison, according to the indictment.

An HSI spokesman said he could make no comment because the case was still under investigation.

Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy

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