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Louisiana couple pleads guilty to smuggling pills into US aboard cruise ship

SHREVEPORT, La. — A Louisiana husband and wife pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegally importing 9,000 painkillers from Belize into the United States while they were passengers aboard a cruise ship from New Orleans in February. The guilty pleas follow an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Robert W. Scogin, 52, and Peggy S. Scogin, 55, both of Shreveport, admitted in their guilty pleas they purchased approximately 9,000 pills of Schedule II, III and IV narcotics in Belize to include codeine and dihydrocodeine. The couple then wrapped the pills in dirty clothes and hid them in luggage to avoid detection. According to court documents, the couple intended to personally use the drugs and sell them upon their return to the United States.

"Homeland Security Investigations special agents in Shreveport along with the Shreveport Police Department Narcotics Unit worked long hours to dismantle this smuggling operation, recover dangerous foreign manufactured narcotics, and bring this investigation to a conclusion," said Special Agent in Charge of HSI New Orleans Raymond R. Parmer Jr. "Stopping the flow of illegal drugs is a priority for HSI, and we will continue to focus resources on this important effort."

The defendants each face up to 20 years in federal prison, a $1 million fine and five years of supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan.16 before U.S. District Judge Maurice Hicks Jr.

"Smuggling drugs into the United States is a serious crime," said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana Stephanie Finley. "Selling prescription drugs without knowing what they really are and without knowing how they will affect the person buying them is extremely dangerous. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect public safety by prosecuting those who illegally import and sell prescription drugs."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth D. Reeg prosecuted the case.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected narcotics smuggling violations by calling 1-866-DHS-2ICE or visiting ICE.gov/tips.