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Another heroin-swallowing man arrested at FLL; cluster of drug mules suspected

achardy@elnuevoherald.com

A second Colombian man has been arrested at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport after revealing to passport control officers that he had swallowed 29 capsules containing heroin.

The arrest Oct. 10 of Jair García Davila was almost a carbon copy of the Sept. 23 detention, also at the same airport, of Harold Edwin Hernández Calderón, who admitted to federal agents that he had swallowed 34 heroin-filled capsules.

Federal investigators say that smuggling heroin in capsules swallowed by a “mule” or courier is often used as a method of concealed transportation by traffickers in Colombia. Investigators began noticing this trend three years ago when a joint investigation with Colombian authorities revealed that traffickers persuaded several people at the same time to swallow between 30 and 60 capsules and carry them to the United States. Traffickers used several couriers at the same time in hopes that only a few would be caught.

The cases detected at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport suggest that the two men caught in recent days may be part of a cluster of heroin couriers dispatched from Colombia.

In the previous case, when Hernández Calderón was arrested, the suspect told authorities he had swallowed heroin-filled capsules that had been given to him by two people who prepared them in a residence in Pereira, a city west of Bogotá, the Colombian capital. Then the suspet boarded a Spirit Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale at the airport in Armenia, just north of Pereira.

Then on arrival, Hernández Calderón he told passport control officers he had ingested the 34 heroin capsules, which he later expelled in the bathroom. Hernández Calderón also told investigators that he was ultimately taking the capsules to New York, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

In the latest case, when García Davila was singled out for questioning at the airport, he also had just arrived from Armenia aboard a Spirit Airlines flight. He also revealed to officers quickly that he had swallowed capsules – but in García Davila’s case, he thought they were filled with cocaine.

But a field test of the substance in the capsules García Davila passed showed it was heroin, according to a criminal complaint filed by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The complaint does not say where García Davila obtained the capsules nor whether he was supposed to take them to New York like the previous suspect.

HSI said it does not comment on cases that are in judicial proceedings.

García Davila’s attorney could not be reached for comment. García Davila has been indicted and on Tuesday pleaded not guilty in court.

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