LOS ANGELES - A Miami man is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court here Monday afternoon on a drug smuggling charge after he was intercepted at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) late last week attempting to smuggle in a cache of cocaine concealed inside dozens of phony candy Easter eggs.
Esteban Galtes, 23, was taken into custody at LAX Thursday night by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). His arrest came after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers searched Galtes' luggage and discovered more than 14 pounds of cocaine, much of it camouflaged as pastel-colored, egg-shaped candies. Galtes told CBP officers the eggs were for his two children. The remainder of the cocaine was secreted under the cardboard bottom of a paper shopping bag. The seized cocaine has an estimated street value of more than $100,000.
"CBP officers at LAX remain ever vigilant during this holiday season," said Carlos Martel, acting director of Los Angeles field operations for CBP. "This smuggling attempt and interception should give notice to all persons involved in this illicit trade to think twice when attempting to smuggle cocaine or other prohibited drugs/items into LAX."
"Drug traffickers are always trying novel ways to conceal their contraband," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Los Angeles. "But cocaine camouflaged as Easter candy is one of the more unusual tactics we've come across. Obviously two days before Christmas, this defendant didn't expect his trip would end with federal officers conducting an Easter egg hunt."
Galtes is charged with importation of a controlled substance. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
ICE HSI agents say at the time of his arrest Galtes was returning to the United States following a one-week trip to Colombia. ICE HSI's investigation into the cocaine smuggling scheme is ongoing.
Editor's Note: Digital photos of the "cocaine" eggs are available. To obtain copies, call ICE Public Affairs at (949) 360-3096.