By Tony O’Reilly-
National Crime Agency officers are issuing a warning to potential drug smugglers after a series of cannabis seizures were made from passengers flying from Los Angeles in the United States.
The officers are experts at building the best possible intelligence picture of serious and organised crime threats, relentlessly pursuing the most serious and dangerous offenders, and developing and delivering specialist capabilities on behalf of law enforcement and other partners.
The leading crime agency further arrested two US nationals at Heathrow airport in London on Tuesday 17 January, meaning 11 have now been detained off flights from LAX in just eight days.
Border Force officers said they have seized between 30 and 50 kilos of cannabis in checked in baggage, totalling over 400 kilos
Nine of the American citizens have been charged with attempting to import class B drugs and remain in custody pending court appearances.
The two arrested on Tuesday are being questioned by NCA investigators.
Five women and four men – all US nationals flying into Heathrow Airport from Los Angeles in the US – were already arrested and charged over the last week. All nine of the American citizens that have been charged are facing counts of trying to import class B drugs and have been remanded in custody pending further court appearances.
The list includes Kiara Lanee Malone, 31, Sabrina Desiree Hobby, 29, Zohrab Idzhyan, 48, Anthony Sarkis Hoffman, 33, Ara Janneh, 25, Madani Ba Junior, 23, Dana Ree Freeman, 31, Kerri Marie Hall, 32, and Zered Afuhia-I-Moana Akolo, 26. Malone – the first passenger – allegedly arrived last Tuesday (Jan 10) and Border Force officers seized around 30 kilos in her checked in baggage, it was claimed.
A second seizure was made three days later when Hobby was stopped, followed by two on Saturday, four on Sunday and another on Monday. In total more than 340 kilos of herbal cannabis with an estimated street value of more than £5.5 million has now been seized, Britain’s FBI – the NCA – said.
Janneh, Junior, Freeman, Hall and Akolo were allegedly the latest to arrive and are all due to appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday. Hobby, Idzhyan and Hoffman were in the dock at the same court on Monday and were remanded to next appear at Isleworth Crown Court next month
NCA experts say cannabis from California, where it can be grown legally, commands a higher price for UK crime groups.
NCA Heathrow Branch Commander Andy Noyes said: “In light of this unusual series of seizures, law enforcement will undoubtedly be paying more attention to passengers on the Los Angeles to London route and stepping up checks.
“Our investigation into these events continues, but I’m making a direct appeal to anyone considering getting involved in transporting drugs to the UK. Think very carefully about the consequences.
“Couriers who bring illicit substances in to the UK play an important role in fuelling organised crime, consequently those who are caught face stiff jail sentences. It simply isn’t worth the risk.”