Customs officers seize 128 lbs of cocaine at Port of Baltimore

BALTIMORE - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized 128 pounds of cocaine Wednesday from a shipping container at the port of Baltimore, the agency confirmed via its Twitter account Tuesday.

A routine inspection netted one the agency's largest drug seizures in Baltimore, according to a release. Officials estimate the street value of the cocaine at around $4 million.

Using an x-ray and gamma ray scanner, officers discovered two gym bags filled with a combined 50 bricks of cocaine.

"Narcotics interdiction remains a top Customs and Border Protection enforcement priority, and this case illustrates how CBP officers leverage non-intrusive imaging technologies to intercept dangerous drugs and to help keep our communities safe," Dianna Bowman, acting CBP port director for the Port of Baltimore, said in a release.

The seizure spiked the needle for customs enforcement in Baltimore, which had collected less than one pound of cocaine in fiscal year 2012, customs spokesman Steve Sapp said.

"We generally do not see narcotics of any kind coming through the Port of Baltimore," Sapp said.

He noted that marijuana was the most prevalent drug brought through the port by cruise ship passengers and tourists. Even Baltimore's drug-of-choice, heroin, rarely flows through Baltimore's travel terminals.

"I can count on one hand how many heroin seizures we've had at the port or at BWI," Sapp said of his five years with the agency.

In a release, Sapp noted that the agency seized 526 pounds of cocaine coming through the port in 2007. The amount then significantly dropped off in 2011, which yielded 22 pounds of cocaine seizures.

The bricks of cocaine seized Dec. 18 were marked with a Nike swoosh symbol.

"That's a branding mechanism," Sapp said.

The agency will check with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for known drug distributors who mark their product with the Nike symbol.

"We have an idea," Sapp said.

The shipping container that triggered Wednesday's investigation came from Colon, Panama.

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