LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles-area man made his initial appearance in federal court Thursday on drug trafficking charges following his arrest at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for attempting to smuggle nearly five pounds of methamphetamine through airport security, all of which concealed inside snack food bags in his backpack.
Lemuel Giovani Espinosa, 21, of Compton, Calif., was taken into custody Wednesday by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Espinosa's arrest came after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers discovered the drugs in his carry-on bag during the X-ray screening process as he prepared to board a flight to Narita, Japan. Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized the contraband and determined that it was, in fact, a controlled substance.
According to the case affidavit, Espinosa planned to deliver the contraband to an individual in Japan, in return for a $6,000 payment. HSI agents estimate the methamphetamine would have sold on the street in Japan for more than $200,000.
"Drug traffickers are always trying novel ways to conceal their contraband," said Marlon V. Miller, deputy special agent in charge for HSI in Los Angeles. "But as this incident shows, through vigilance and close collaboration, HSI and its partner agencies in the Department of Homeland Security are combatting these serious threats to public safety."
"This is a prime example of multi-agency collaboration and how we form a united front against traffickers at Los Angeles International Airport," said Todd C. Owen, CBP director of field operations in Los Angeles. "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) partners with other agencies in detecting, intercepting and prosecuting individuals engaged in outbound drug smuggling."
Espinosa was charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. He was ordered held without bond pending his arraignment, which is set for Oct. 3. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.