An X-ray scan image of one woman’s luggage showed three pumpkins filled with strange masses inside. Upon further investigation, border agents discovered that the hollowed out pumpkins were filled with about 2 kilograms of white powder in bags. The substance kept inside was suspected to equal about 4 pounds of cocaine that the female traveler was attempting to smuggle through the airport.
Discovering Suspicious Luggage
On Halloween morning, 26 year old Mercedes Jerez Farias arrived at Montreal-Trudeau airport in Canada and struggled to lift her own luggage at the customs desk. The border service officers became suspicious and took her aside to question her and search through her bags. As the agency checked through her things they discovered the three pumpkins which they thought seemed unusually heavy.
The pumpkins were then put through the X-ray scanner where they showed masses inside that proved to be a white chalky substance. When the cocaine was finally discovered, the Mounties or Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized the drugs and took over the investigation. Jerez Faria claimed in a later hearing that she was traveling to visit her father. Her passport revealed that she travels frequently to the Dominican Republic but lives with her husband in Delson on the Montreal South Shore.
The seizure of the 2 kilograms of cocaine represents almost 5 percent of all cocaine taken from the Montreal-Trudeau airport this year. Since the beginning of the year, border service officers have made 173 drug seizures of which 10 involved the seizure of cocaine. Total cocaine confiscation for the year amounts to about 44 kilograms. Officers in the Quebec region made a total of 1653 drug seizures through the previous year.
The border service agency’s director for the region, Benoit Chiquette, made a statement following the incident asserting that the border service officers work hard to intercept narcotics “regardless of how they are hidden.” The pumpkin trick was doubtlessly an unusual method of hiding drugs but the border services officers are well-trained and experienced enough to discover and identify drugs in a variety of situations.
The Smuggler’s Arrest and Trial
After the cocaine was discovered, Mercedes Jerez Farias was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. She was questioned by the Mounties but at the time told the investigators nothing. She now faces two drug-related charges after her cocaine-filled pumpkins were discovered – importing drugs and drug possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Jerez Farias appeared before the judge in Montreal on the same day of the seizure where she was given the two charges. If found guilty of the drug charges, she will have to serve a minimum of two years in prison but a more likely sentence of up to six years. She is still being detained and was denied bail at the bail hearing following her arrest in the Montreal courthouse.
The price of cocaine can vary depending on its purity and how it is processed so it is hard to say how much money the seizure was worth in total. In recent years, the purest form of cocaine could be worth $137 to $170 a gram. That means the amount of cocaine seized at the Montreal airport potentially could be worth anywhere from $274,000 to $340,000.
The use of pumpkins to hide the drugs around the Halloween holiday caused a lot of media attention for this case and was an unusual situation but cocaine seizure is nothing new for the border service agency which works to stop potential drug traffickers on a regular basis.