Man allegedly tries to get through CLT Airport with 23 pounds of cocaine in wheelchair

The four packages containing over 23 pounds of cocaine had an estimated value of $378,000, authorities said.
Agents found 23 pounds of cocaine in an electric wheelchair at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 12:57 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – An arriving passenger at Charlotte Douglas International Airport was arrested after cocaine was found hidden in an electric wheelchair, authorities said.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 22-year-old Alexander Lopez-Morel, a resident of the U.S., arrived in Charlotte on a flight from the Dominican Republic on Tuesday and was utilizing the wheelchair.

Agents found 23 pounds of cocaine in an electric wheelchair at Charlotte Douglas International...
Agents found 23 pounds of cocaine in an electric wheelchair at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.(Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

During an examination by CPB officers, packages were found within the seat cushions that contained a substance that field-tested positive for cocaine, according to a news release.

The four packages containing over 23 pounds of cocaine had an estimated value of $378,000, authorities said.

Mike Prado, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Charlotte, spoke to WBTV in a Zoom interview Friday. He explained that investigators had received intelligence prior to Lopez-Morrel’s arrival in Charlotte, that the man may be smuggling drugs into the country through a wheelchair.

“What we did was identify the individual. Agents and inspectors were able to pull him out of line when he was laid over for a connecting flight to Newark, New Jersey,” said Prado.

He said Lopez-Morrel was interviewed and his story didn’t match-up.

“It was readily apparent that there was something suspicious going on so we had probable cause to conduct further investigation and ultimately we were able to determine that he was sitting on 11 kilos of cocaine,” said Prado.

The special agent in charge noted that investigators are not used to seeing people attempt to smuggle drugs in wheelchairs in airports.

“It’s unusual for an airport environment generally to have somebody pose as a handicapped person and have a wheelchair stuffed with cocaine. That is definitely something we’re more accustomed to seeing at land borders, the southwest border,” said Prado.

He said the fact that someone would conceal cocaine in a wheelchair just shows the level that some people will go to just to smuggle drugs. He said he is hopeful that getting the drugs off the street will be a big blow to the criminal organization Lopez-Morrel is working with.

“Obviously, that’s a distribution level amount for a drug-trafficking organization and the seizure of that amount of cocaine will hopefully deal a significant blow to their operation,” said Prado.

Lopez-Morel was charged with felony trafficking in cocaine.

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