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Aug. 3, 2012

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NJ Man Caught at IAH with 4.5 Kilos of Cocaine Hidden in Paintings

HOUSTON – A 46-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly possessing 4.5 kilograms of cocaine hidden in painted plaques brought from Lima, Peru, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Jeffrey O. Baldwin Sr., director of Houston Field Operations for Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Giovanni Quiroz, of Kearney, N.J., was arrested yesterday as he arrived at Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston. He is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy later today.

“We take every opportunity to disrupt the illegal activities of criminal organizations,” said Baldwin. “While the methods for smuggling illicit narcotics vary, our officers and their experience remain a key part of our strategy to protect our nation.”

The criminal complaint, signed just moments ago, alleges Quiroz did knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, a schedule II controlled substance. If convicted, he faces a minimum of five and up to 40 years in federal prison and a possible $5 million fine.

After being referred for inspection at the customs checkpoint, the criminal complaint alleges Quiroz began providing inconsistent statements about his belongings and his travel thereby alerting CBP officers. Following an X-ray examination and detection by a narcotics canine, CBP officers located three plastic bags containing a total of 18 painted plaques in Quiroz’s luggage. Hidden within the plaques was a substance which field tested positive for the presence of cocaine. The substance has been transported to a laboratory for final analysis.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents learned that between 2004 to present, Quiroz traveled approximately 16 times between the United States and Peru.

The case was investigated by HSI and CBP. Assistant United States Attorney Mark E. Donnelly is prosecuting the case.

An indictment or criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.