More than a kilo of cocaine was found concealed inside two old TVs shipped separately from Colombia nine days apart, officials in Rhode Island said.
An undercover law enforcement operation sparked by the discovery led to a man, a 25-year-old Pawtucket resident, being charged with ”conspiracy to possess 500 grams or more of cocaine with intent to distribute,”according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island.
A public defender representing the man didn’t immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Jan. 3.
Initially, a package described as “1 old tv without commercial value” was shipped to Rhode Island from Colombia through the United Parcel Service and was intercepted on Dec. 13 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to a criminal complaint obtained by McClatchy News.
After opening the package, CBP officers discovered an ”older, dial operated television” with more than 300 grams of cocaine tucked inside, the complaint said.
Over a week later, CBP officers in Providence were told a “possible cocaine shipment” was coming through UPS on Dec. 22 from Colombia, according to federal officials. This package also was listed as an old TV without commercial value and was headed to a residence about one mile from the previous package’s destination.
Inside the second package was an ”older Sony brand tube TV” that concealed a plastic bag with 1,093 grams of cocaine inside, the complaint said.
After the drugs were seized by officials, a plan coordinated with Pawtucket police was formulated to “conduct a controlled delivery of the original package and conduct surveillance of the address to which the package was to be delivered,” according to the complaint.
An undercover Pawtucket police officer posed as a UPS driver and delivered the package to the residence it was originally headed to before it was intercepted, federal officials said.
A woman stepped outside to grab the package and “quickly placed it back on the steps,” feds said.
Then, surveillance officers saw the man walking around the neighborhood and monitoring the area himself wearing a hooded sweatshirt with skulls on it, according to the complaint. They also noticed an Audi driving through the neighborhood and slowing down in front of the home wherethe package was dropped off.
Afterward,the man was seen emerging from the residence’s backyard before grabbing the package and heading into the passenger seat of the Audi that was parked on a nearby street, officials said.
When the Audi began to drive away, it was stopped by a Pawtucket officer, according to the complaint, and the man is accused of attempting to flee police by lunging from the car and throwing the package to the ground.
The driver of the Audi said the man was a friend from high school and that he didn’t know what was inside the package, the complaint said.
The man reportedly told investigators a person who he met through a friend who lived in Colombia had asked him through Facebook to pick up the package. In return, the man would be paid $500, according to the complaint.
He “was hesitant to answer why somebody would pay $500 for the retrieval of a TV,” the complaint said.
While in custody, the person from Colombia called him on FaceTime, according to officials.
Since the man is in federal custody, he couldn’t be reached for comment.
He is set to appear in court on Tuesday, Jan. 4, The Associated Pressreported.