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Feds Make Biggest-Ever Cocaine Seizure: 4,620 Pounds

October 29, 1986

MIAMI (AP) _ U.S. Customs agents inspecting a furniture shipment discovered 4,620 pounds of cocaine, the largest amount ever seized in this country, federal officials said Wednesday.

The cocaine, seized earlier this month, had a wholesale value of more than $46 million and would be worth at least 10 times that on the street, said Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Jack Hook.

Customs agents were checking two 40-foot-long containers that held sofas and chairs when they spotted empty, false compartments inside the merchandise, said George Heavey, commissioner of the Southeast Region of the Customs Service.

Their suspicions aroused, agents then closely examined the containers themselves and found a false floor in one container that covered up hundreds of bundles of cocaine.

″The concealment method was extremely sophisticated,″ Heavey said.

No arrests have been made and none are expected immediately, but an investigation is continuing, said Diogenes K. Galanos, head of the DEA office in Miami.

Cargo ship MALARGO I brought the shipment from La Guaira, Venezuela, to the Port of Palm Beach. The rusty blue furniture containers were unloaded Oct. 9, and the vessel had left port before agents found the cocaine Oct. 17, Galanos said.

Galanos said he did not know where the cocaine came from, who it was intended for, or whether the ship’s crew knew illegal cargo was aboard.

The cocaine was packed in plastic-wrapped bundles stuffed under the container’s false floor and marked with the black lettering ″ALA″ or ″CALI.″

Galanos said the shipment, now stored in dozens of cardboard boxes at a DEA office, might have been meant for two distributors.

Before discovery of the cache, the largest cocaine seizure in the United States was a March 1982 find of 3,940 pounds aboard a Colombia Airlines Cargo jet that traveled from Medellin, Colombia, to Miami.