Kevin W. Weeks, director of CBP Field Operations in Boston, is a proud man today. He announced the latest triumph against the drug trade, saying, “This arrest exemplifies the extreme measures criminals will undertake to smuggle contraband,”
He was referring to the arrest of a 38-year-old woman who has been arrested for smuggling cocaine at Logan Airport. Her name is Johanna Carolina Ortiz, although she is hereinafter referred to as the “Defendant”. According to federal officials, she was trying to smuggle 24 pounds of liquid cocaine in a variety of here product and lotion bottles.
The Defendant, a United States citizen, had just arrived on a flight from Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic on January 28. Customs and border protection officers searched and found what they called a “logic and suspicious amount of cosmetic products” in her suitcase according to officials.
When the officials looked into the beauty supplies, they found 24 pounds of a liquid cocaine mixture that was concealed in 25 different cosmetic canisters that were labeled as here products in hand lotions according to the report.
The authorities then turned the Defendant over to the state police. Prosecuted by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, she has now been arraigned on the charges.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Probable Cause, Drug Possession And Federal Prerogative
We know one thing already about this prosecution. There are either problems associated with it or the government considers it not quite big enough to be all that upset about.
How do we know that?
Because this was a federal bust. Federal officials made the original arrest and, indeed, had the jurisdiction to prosecute the case. Imports come under federal jurisdiction… If they want the case.
Apparently, they did not want this one.
One of the primary issues in this case is going to be search and seizure. Specifically, did the authorities have probable cause to conduct the search of the containers as they did. If you follow this case, you will probably hear a complaint of racial profiling used by the defense.
The question will be asked, if the defendant were Caucasian, would the number of beauty products have spurred on the search.
“Well Sam, isn’t there something to their argument that they would just too many beauty products there to simply be what they seem to be?”
Maybe. On the other hand, have you traveled with many women? Have you noticed how many beauty products come with them? Further, how do we know that she wasn’t going to bring beauty products to other people she was visiting? Or perhaps she purchased the items and we’re bringing them with her. Maybe, she was even traveling with someone and some of those beauty products belonged to that person. In other words, why jump to the conclusion that it must mean that there is contraband inside?
One should assume of course that the charges brought against the Defendant will not simply be drug possession. Because they were found in different canisters, rest assure that the claim will be that this was all part of drug trafficking and, at the very least, she possessed these drugs with the intent to distribute them.
There is one thing working against the defense though. That is that there is a lower expectation of privacy when traveling by plane at airports. This is particularly so sense the tragedy of September 11, 2001.. Because of the public safety issue and the fear of terrorists, officials are given more latitude and what they can and cannot search.
If it is found that the search was unconstitutional, what the researchers found will be suppressed. The prosecution will not be able to use them and therefore the case will be dismissed.
If that happens, will the arrest have been a total loss for Law enforcement ?
Criminal investigators may well take advantage of this arrest to try to squeeze information out of the defendant. They might even offer a “deal” in exchange for her giving information on those who are further up the narcotic foodchain.
In fact, if you wanted to be really suspicious, you might wonder if such a deal has not already been made as evidenced by the fact that she is being prosecuted by the state and not the federal government.
I have no involvement with him so do not know anything about the backstory of this case. I am merely telling you what often happens.
What is her best bet at this point? Well, that I can tell you.
You know the answer too.
She should have a very good and experienced criminal defense attorney at her side whether making a deal with investigators, prosecutors or simply arguing her case in court.
For the original story upon which this blog is based please go to http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/02/cocaine_found_cosmetics_containers