Woman caught smuggling almost half a million dollars of cocaine in wheelchair that didn't work

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

(NEW YORK) -- A woman has been arrested for allegedly attempting to smuggle nearly half a million dollars’ worth of cocaine into the United States in the wheels of her wheelchair after authorities said they noticed the wheels wouldn’t turn as she tried to travel in it.

The incident occurred on Nov. 10 at John F. Kennedy International Airport when Emelinda Paulino De Rivas -- a citizen from the Dominican Republic -- arrived in New York City on a flight from Punta Cana in a wheelchair when U.S. Customs and Border Protection noticed that the wheels on the wheelchair she was traveling in were not actually turning and decided to interview her.

“[CBP] x-rayed the wheelchair and noticed an anomaly in all four wheels,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement following the incident. “CBP officers probed the four wheels revealing a white powder that tested positive for cocaine.”

Officers ended up seizing approximately 28 lbs. of cocaine from the wheelchair which translates to an estimated 75,000 doses of the drug and a street value of $450,000, according to CBP.

“A lethal dose of cocaine is roughly one to three grams, so the amount seized by CBP and kept out of our neighborhoods amounts to roughly 6,000 lethal doses,” CBP said in their statement following De Rivas’ arrest.

De Rivas is now facing federal narcotics smuggling charges and will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the U.S. Eastern District Court of New York, according to CBP.

A trial date has not yet been set.

“CBP stands steadfast and determined in working with our partners to identify the trans- national criminal networks responsible for importing these deadly drugs into our neighborhoods,” said Francis J. Russo, director of CBP’s New York Field Operations. “CBP’s mission is to guard the borders and ports of entry 24/7, 365 days a year to prevent these dangerous drugs from potentially killing our family, friends, and neighbors.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2022 at 6:16AM by Jon Haworth, ABC News Permalink