A fourty seven-year-old British man is accused of filling religious statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph with cocaine in a failed smuggling try.
Stephen J. Ingle, of London, was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport. Ingle, who was making his way to London from Argentina, has been charged with importing a controlled substance.
At a secondary screening area, authorities detected that his shoulder bag and two ceramic religious statues seemed heavier than typical items of their size, according to court records and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Customs officers found items stitched inside the shoulder bag.
X-rays revealed that both the bag and statues contained organic material, court records say.
The items stitched within the inner lining of the bag were one-pound bricks of a white, powdery substance that tested positive for cocaine, authorities say.
A white substance found inside the statues also allegedly tested positive for cocaine.
One of the religious statues is about a foot tall, weighs nearly 10 pounds and depicts Mary holding a baby Jesus, customs spokesman Steve Sapp said.
He described the other statue as an 8-inch-tall figurine of Joseph that weighs nearly 6 pounds.
Both statues show the figures standing up, on a small, oval platform.
The estimated street value of the alleged cocaine bricks is $65,000.
It's unknown how much cocaine was in the statues. Sapp said the substance would be taken to a Drug Enforcement Administration lab so authorities could determine the purity and exact amount of cocaine.
Ingle allegedly told officers when he arrived at Dulles that he was Argentina on a business trip and that he owns a boating company.
He faces a preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Wednesday.
He is in custody pending further court proceedings.
Geremy Kamens, the federal public defender representing Ingle, declined to comment on the case.
Christopher Hess, the customs port director for Washington, said in a statement that the arrest "is a prime example of how Customs and Border Protection relies heavily on officer training and intuition as well as advanced technology to stop suspected illicit narcotics at our nation's ports of entry."