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Queens Chronicle

‘Paw’ enforcement takes on JFK drug smugglers

July 15 cocaine bust one of many led by CBP’s four-legged officers

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Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:52 am, Thu Aug 7, 2014.

The keen nose of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection canine trained to detect illicit substances can’t be fooled no matter where smugglers hide their contraband.

A passenger arriving from the Caribbean was ‘sniffed’ out on July 15 by Ari, a 5-year-old male Czech shepherd, CBP spokesman Anthony Bucci said.

Officers were inspecting luggage arriving from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, when K-9 Ari alerted his CBP handler to a suspicious suitcase, CBP spokesman Anthony Bucci said.

Passenger Elkan Barak Durham, 36, of Brooklyn, allegedly claimed the suitcase, and was escorted to a private search room where the suitcase was examined and allegedly found to contain a white powder that tested positive for cocaine, according to CBP officials. The amount of cocaine that was seized weighed approximately nine pounds, with a street value of $151,000, Bucci said.

Durham was arrested for the importation of a controlled substance and was turned over to the Department of Homeland Security and now faces federal narcotics smuggling charges. He was released on $50,000 bail according to court documents.

“Cocaine is a dangerous narcotic, and CBP does its part in keeping these drugs off the streets,” said Robert Perez, director of CBP’s New York Field Operations. “Our officers are determined to protect the American people from these illicit substances.”

Ari was assigned to U.S. Customs and Border Protection at JFK Airport in July, 2012.

This isn’t the first time a JFK CBP drug-sniffing canine has correctly alerted to the presence of contraband.

In recent busts, more than 40 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $2 million bundled inside a checked duffel bag was found by canine Fenja, while Shelma, another CBP dog sniffed out six and a half kilos of cocaine with a street value of $350,000 in adult diapers that the smugglers were wearing.

Canine Ramchez, recently alerted his handlers to a shipping container holding several wooden coat hangers with over three pounds of heroin secreted in them, while canine Tery located about eight pounds of heroin in a cargo shipment from Ecuador concealed in the outer walls of a large water cooler and, after a search of the cargo hold area of a flight from the Dominican Republic, she alerted her handler to a duffle bag with 12 bricks of heroin, weighing more than 29 pounds and eight bricks of cocaine weighing nearly 20 pounds.

Among canine Tobi’s narcotics finds were: 24 pounds of heroin hidden in artifacts arriving on a flight from Africa, 25 pounds of cocaine hidden in a tote bag on a flight from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and 5 pounds of heroin concealed in a freight container on a flight arriving at JFK from India while canine Cara seized 50 pounds of cocaine recently hidden in mail bags.

“The canine program has been instrumental in assisting officers to identify cargo and luggage containing contraband quickly and with little effort since the early 1970s when the program was established,” Gary Walck, deputy chief of the canine anti-terrorism contraband enforcement unit at JFK Airport, stated. “Detector dogs are an integral part of CBP’s anti-terrorism and enforcement efforts. The canine unit serves as a valuable tool to officers in the field as they carry out the agency’s mission.”

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