The bottle of Mama Juana felt “unusually heavy” to customs officials at Kennedy Airport, authorities said.
Upon closer inspection U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers determined the bottle belonging to a woman arriving on a flight from Santiago, Dominican Republic, last week actually contained 32 pellets of heroin — with a street value of approximately $27,000, officials said Tuesday.
The passenger, identified by officials as Rosa Almonte De Ortega, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was arrested and charged with the importation of a controlled substance following the search on Jan. 6, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said. De Ortega now faces smuggling charges to be prosecuted in Queens, officials said.
In a statement released Tuesday, Robert E. Perez, director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said: “Heroin is a dangerous narcotic, and CBP does its part in keeping these drugs off the streets. Our officers are determined to protect the American people from these illicit substances.”
Mama Juana is a drink from the Dominican Republic concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. Authorities said the bottle being transported into the country by De Ortega was in a checked suitcase.