Customs Officials Seize Heroin, Amphetamine-Like Plant at Dulles in 2 Busts

Friday, Dec 28, 2012  |  Updated 4:13 PM EDT
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Khat is an illegal stimulant from the Middle East. This was seized at Dulles airport on Dec. 21.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials had a busy Christmas travel season at Dulles, seizing heroin and an amphetamine-like plant in two separate busts around the holiday.

Monday, officials seized 11 pounds of heroin carried in the lining of a woman's suitcase. Officials noticed the suitcase was heavy even though it was empty, and then discovered a packet of a brown, powdery substance in the lining. A field test indicated it was heroin.

The woman, Nana Tweneboah, 68, of Ghana, was traveling from Ghana via Amsterdam. Custom officials said she was destined to an address in Alexandria, Va., to visit with her son and daughter.

Tweneboah is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

On Dec. 21, custom officials seized more than 200 pounds of an illegal stimulant from the Middle East that was shipped as air freight to Dulles International Airport.

The agency says it found 214 pounds of khat, prounouced "cot," while inspecting freight that was listed as wood coffee tables. The drug had been shipped from Doha, Qatar, and has an estimated street value of $30,000.

Khat is a leafy plant that's chewed for its stimulant effect. It's typically grown in the Arabian peninsula, border officials said. It's classified as a dangerous narcotic in the United States.

CBP says it destroyed the drug, and no charges will be filed. CBP spokesman Steve Sapp says it can be difficult to pursue criminal charges for dealing khat because it starts to break down about 48 hours after harvesting.

It is the largest khat seizure in air cargo at Dulles since April 30, 2010, when CBP officers seized 385 pounds of the amphetamine-like plant, customs officials said in a press release.

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