A traveler at Kennedy Airport is being held on federal narcotics smuggling charges after agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection found 2 pounds of heroin stuffed into a seat cushion he carried in his bag, officials said Friday.
Esteban Antonio Ortiz Ramos, a Guatemalan citizen, was arrested on March 26, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. In the federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, authorities said Ramos arrived at Kennedy on Avianca Flight 670 from Guatemala via El Salvador.
According to the complaint, Ramos submitted a red backpack and a blue duffel bag for inspection by CBP officers, but then told them he was missing a green suitcase -- saying the suitcase contained clothing and a seat cushion.
"The aforementioned green suitcase was located by CBP officers," the complaint states, "and the defendant confirmed in sum and substance that the suitcase and its contents were his." During the inspection of those contents, the complaint states, the officers found the cushion to be "unusually thick and heavy" and decided to examine it further.
When probed, their search "revealed a brown powdery substance" that tested positive for heroin, officials said.
The street value of the heroin was estimated at more than $66,000, authorities said.
Ramos is being held at the Manhattan Detention Center. Arraignment information was not immediately available.
"This seizure is just another example of our CBP officers being ever vigilant in protecting the United States from the distribution of these illicit drugs," director of CBP's New York Field Operations, Robert E. Perez, said in a statement.