An "unusually heavy" pair of sneakers alerted border agents in El Paso, Texas, that a smuggling attempt may have been afoot.
Laura Valeria Ramirez of Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican city just over the border from El Paso, was stopped on the evening of September 5, as she tried to pass through the Ysleta international pedestrian crossing inspection area.
During a secondary inspection, Customs and Border Protection agents noticed that the shoes she was wearing were heavy and that the inner soles were "thick and bulky," according to a CBP release.
After an X-ray revealed an anomaly in the soles, agents probed them, uncovering a white powder that tested positive for cocaine — 1.32 pounds in total.
“CBP officers will sometimes encounter people who try to smuggle drugs in their shoes,” Severiano Solis, the acting CBP El Paso Port director, said in a release. “Our attention to detail stopped this drug smuggler in her tracks.”
Valeria Ramirez was turned over to special agents from Homeland Security Investigations, and she will face charges related to the attempted smuggling effort.
While her smuggling attempt failed, carrying cocaine in shoes is probably one of the safest ways a smuggler can carry illegal drugs on their person.
In the past, drug mules, as such smugglers are called, have attempted to ingest cocaine rolled up in condoms or balloons, often dozens at a time.
Carrying packets this way is no doubt uncomfortable, but should one of them burst, the mule can suffer an overdose and potentially die. A 24-year-old Brazilian man who ingested 80 packets holding nearly 2 pounds of cocaine died on a flight from Dublin to Lisbon after one of the packets burst in his stomach.
Drugs can also be surgically inserted. A Colombian woman who complained of severe pain was stopped in the Berlin airport earlier this year and found to be carrying 2.2 pounds of cocaine in her breasts.
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