Three American citizens have been banged up in foreign jails after they were convicted of trying to smuggle a combined 87 kilos (191 pounds) of herbal Cannabis into the United Kingdom.
All three convicts were caught after they arrived in Britain on flights from Los Angeles International Airport to London Heathrow Airport in January. Customs officers had already stepped up checks on passengers flying from LAX after noticing an unusual rise in cannabis smuggling from the Californian city.
Barrington Walters, 24, from Los Angeles, and Mandy Silowka, 34, from Princeton, New Jersey, were both caught after arriving at Heathrow Airport on the same United Airlines flight on January 17.
Walters was stopped with 33 kilos of Cannabis in his luggage, while customs officers found a further 26.5 kilos of Cannabis in luggage belonging to Silowka.
The pair were sentenced last week at Isleworth Crown Court after they both pleaded guilty to attempted drug smuggling. Walters was jailed for 12 months, and Silowka was handed a 10-month jail sentence.
Meanwhile, Kiara Lanee Malone, 31, from St Louis, Missouri, also pleaded guilty to drug smuggling after she was stopped shortly after stepping off a flight from Los Angeles on January 10.
Customs officers discovered 27.5 kilos of Cannabis in her luggage but Malone initially told investigators from the National Crime Agency that she thought the bags contained clothes. Malone admitted to transporting the luggage on behalf of someone else but initially denied the allegations of drug smuggling.
Unlike in California, Cannabis remains illegal in the UK and is classified as a Class B drug. The maximum penalty for simple possession of cannabis is up to five years imprisonment, while supply of the drug could land a suspect behind bars for as long as 14 years.
Both offences can also be punished with an unlimited fine, although sentences are typically much more lenient. Malone is due to be sentenced on April 5.
One gram of Cannabis can sell for between £10 and £12, but the NCA says Californian cannabis can command much higher prices because it is grown legally and is, therefore of much higher quality.
“These cases serve as further warnings to those who think they can get away with smuggling drugs into the UK,” commented the Heathrow Branch Commander of the NCA Andy Noyes.
There has been a slew of arrests for similar offences over the last few months, and more convictions are expected. In an attempt to outwit the NCA, criminals have been sending drug mules onto connecting domestic flights to smaller airports with fewer Border Force resources.
Just over a week ago, US national Isabella Carrasco was arrested at Edinburgh Airport after flying to Heathrow from LAX and then immediately jumping on a connecting flight. On Carraco’s arrival in Scotland, her luggage was searched and a large quantity of Cannabis was alleged discovered.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.