LINTHICUM, Md. -- Drug smugglers are trying to get more creative in their attempts to sneak illegal substances into the U.S.
Case in point: A recent alleged attempt to smuggle cocaine into Maryland via soup packets.
Authorities recently seized more than 14 pounds of cocaine worth $650,000 that had been stuffed inside dried soup packets, which a Salvadoran man tried to smuggle in a suitcase through Baltimore-Washington International Airport, U.S. customs officials said.
Felix Velasquez-Hernandez was caught with the drug-filled soup packages when he tried to leave Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Jan. 31, Jon Marsicano Jr., an agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a sworn statement.
Marsicano is assigned to an anti-smuggling detail at BWI. He wrote in the statement he was responding to a tip about cocaine smuggling from El Salvador. Another agency, a drug-sniffing dog and its handler joined him to search the luggage of passengers arriving on a flight from Houston.
The team approached Velasquez-Hernandez, who had a valid U.S. visa and was supposed to return to El Salvador, when he would be paid $400, he later told Marsicano.
When Velasquez-Hernandez agreed to have his luggage searched, the team found six boxes of soup in one of his bags, Marsicano wrote. Each soup box contained 11 packets of soup mix, but only six packets held dried soup.
When the team tore open a packet and found cocaine, Velasquez-Hernandez began crying, Marsicano wrote.
The other 60 packets held 14 1/2 pounds of cocaine.
Velasquez-Hernandez told Marsicano he didn't know cocaine was in the luggage. He said a woman Velasquez-Hernandez knew in Sonsonate, El Salvador, had asked him to fly to the United States with the luggage.
Velasquez-Hernandez was instructed to take the luggage to a Hyattsville man and stay with him until his return flight.
Velasquez-Hernandez is being held without bail. No lawyer is listed for him.
"Cocaine is not grown in Maryland, it's coming through in planes, trains, automobiles and ships," said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein said hiding the cocaine in soup packets was unusual, adding, "one of the challenges to law enforcement is that traffickers use every conceivable means."