Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Feds find $100K worth of coke, heroin on Royal Caribbean cruise ship; cops suspect cruise drug ring
Federal investigators looking to crack an alleged cruise ship drug ring found nearly $100,000 worth of cocaine and heroin aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise liner docked in Baltimore over the weekend, authorities said Tuesday.
The sting uncovered about 1 1/5 pounds of heroin and nearly a pound of cocaine aboard the ship Enchantment of the Seas, one of the cruise company's deluxe floating pleasure palaces.
With drug-sniffing dogs in tow, investigators found the drugs in a locked room that was only accessible to the ship's employees. No arrests were made, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers said.
The ship was docked in Baltimore after a 12-day cruise of the Caribbean, and the seizure was the second time in a month that federal agents have found drugs aboard.
In December, three Enchantment crew members were charged with conspiracy to import drugs when one of them was caught with similar amounts of cocaine and heroin after returning from the Caribbean, The Associated Press reported.
The man told authorities he planned to sell the drugs for $4,000 in the parking lot of a Walmart near Baltimore's cruise terminal, according to The AP.
Authorities wouldn't say if the two cases were related.
"If we already encountered an incident where drugs were discovered on the ship, we're more than likely going to take another look at the vessel further down the road," Steve Sapp, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told the Baltimore Sun.
Royal Caribbean said in a statement that it was cooperating fully with the investigation and that the company maintains a "strict zero tolerance policy regarding illegal drugs on its ships."
In the first bust, on Dec. 18, cops collared crew member Gavin Excell, 35, as soon as the boat docked and found more than a pound and a half of heroin and 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces) of coke stashed in his pants and shoes, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Excell then sold out two other crew members, John Swart Garth and Kishurn Neptune, both 27, and said the three of them had bought the coke and smack during a stop in the Dominican Republic.
Two others, Loxly Johnson, 48, and Shenika Graves, 34, were arrested and charged with attempting to buy the drugs.
Excell's lawyer told The AP that his client did not tell investigators about the second stash.
Marketed as a family friendly ship, the Enchantment of the Seas is home ported in Baltimore and tours the Caribbean, Canada, New England and Bermuda.
It's nearly 1,000 feet long, can hold up to 2,730 passengers and features bungee trampolines, suspension bridges, a casino and various themed bars and lounges.