Pipeline in the sky: How high-flying criminals work to smuggle drugs through Nashville airport

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Every day, criminals are working to funnel illegal drugs into our community.  

Some individuals are even bold enough to try and smuggle drugs through the Nashville International Airport.

Metro-Nashville Airport Authority Police Captain Christopher Shuff said each year hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs are checked and stowed on flights headed for Middle Tennessee.

Airport police and federal drug agents mainly find marijuana and cocaine.  

“A lot of your larger amounts are packaged in carry-on bags or just in your checked luggage,” said Shuff.

But there are craftier ways people try and sneak drugs into the airport and onto a plane.
 
“A lot of people who travel with a casual amount of drugs, say a small joint, may use a potato chip can or a tube of toothpaste that has a secret opening,” he said.
 
Several law enforcement agencies, like MNAA police, and agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, work together to keep an eye on suspicious bags.

Shuff explained even if a suitcase full of drugs is checked successfully, it could still be flagged.
 
This month, police at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport alerted drug agents at BNA that 27-year-old Chad Singkeo checked a suitcase stuffed with 25 pounds of “high grade” marijuana.

Once Singkeo landed in Music City, he was confronted by agents with the DEA.

“We knew this was coming in before it even landed,” said Bobby Joslin, Chairman of the Metro Nashville Airport Authority.

Shuff explained why a person isn’t stopped from flying, even if authorities know they have drugs on board.
 
“Getting them to transport the drugs may build on the case,” he said.  “It may give us more charges and may help us gather more information by letting that process play out.”
 
So who are the culprits stowing spice? Police said some individuals arrested at BNA are dealers, while others are couriers looking to make a little extra cash.
 
According to court documents, in January, Reem Ibrahim’s luggage was flagged on a flight from Phoenix to Nashville.  

Once on the ground, Ibrahim was busted with five pounds of cocaine and 50 pounds of pot.  The 21-year-old told drug agents she was paid $1,000 to bring the luggage to Nashville and did not know what was inside.
 
MNAA police said lots of these drugs are found in checked bags on flights coming from the west coast.
 
“The last two we’ve had have come from Seattle,” said Shuff.  “Also California, Colorado and Nevada.”
 
Although marijuana is legal in many West Coast states, according to federal law, it’s still illegal.  Shuff said that means individual state laws become irrelevant when it comes to flying with marijuana.

Drug-sniffing dogs help with several airport busts.  Shuff said right now BNA only has bomb-sniffing dogs so airport police can call Metro police or the Tennessee Highway Patrol when they need assistance from a K-9 unit.
 
Shuff said Nashville International Airport is expected to obtain several drug sniffing K-9 units, this year.  

“We see the need for it with the amount of drugs coming through the airport,” Shuff said. 
 
As long as criminals keep trying to sneak drugs through the airport, police and federal drug agents remain focused on finding the drugs and stopping them from entering into the community.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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