A Pennsylvania produce importer has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for allegedly smuggling cocaine in boxes of hot peppers.
Humberto Baez, 52, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was sentenced Thursday to 13 years in prison after being convicted back in 2019 by a jury for conspiring to import and distribute cocaine.
The DEA said its investigation found that Baez used real produce from the Dominican Republic, to conceal 16 kilos of Ecuadorian coke which were caught in a Miami port back in 2018.
“Concealing drug shipments with produce is one way drug traffickers try to elude
law enforcement," DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan said. This cat and mouse game evolves over time resulting in law enforcement recovering drugs in various places; such as inside coconuts, wheelchairs, animals, people, tombstones, etc. just to name a few."
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According to the agency, Baez would carefully plan his drug operation which started as a legitimate produce importer business but later transitioned to a cocaine smuggling organization which used a Pennsylvania warehouse as storage hub.
“Today’s sentence demonstrates that this Office and its law enforcement partners are committed to stopping the flow of dangerous drugs into this country and to bringing drug traffickers like Baez to justice,” stated Acting United States Attorney Kasulis.
Baez was convicted by a jury back in 2019.