O’Hare International Airport became the scene of a major drug bust yesterday afternoon as Chicago police said that three women were caught trying to smuggle over $3 million worth of heroin and opium into the United States disguised in their luggage as bags of tea leaves.
The three women have all been identified as Americans, natives of Minnesota, in fact, who were flying into the Chicago airport after a trip to Vientiane, Laos via a flight from Narita, Japan. Each woman will now face felony drug charges for the manufacturing or delivery of narcotics for the over 900 grams of heroin or heroin analogs they tried to smuggle into the United States. They due to appear in court for bond today in the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California.
The Chicago Tribune has reported the identities of the three women accused as 52-year-old True Thao, 58-year-old Mai Vue Vang, and Pa Yang, who is 57-years-old. Police said that Yang and Vang are both from St. Paul, Minnesota, while Thao is from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
The street value of the drugs that the three women were trying to smuggle in is said to be over $3 million, and the opium and heroin that was concealed in the bags of tea leaves came up to a total of about 31.5 kilograms or 70 pounds. The arrests occurred at approximately 4:20 p.m. in Terminal 5 of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport after the women disembarked from the flight. A baggage inspection led the custom agents who searched the luggage that the three women were carrying to discover 470 small packets of what a statement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection called “a brown powdery substance” hidden amongst bags of tea leaves.
Some of the packets tested positive for opium while others came back positive for heroin. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Matthew Davies, the Chicago Area Port Director for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has said that despite the new techniques smugglers continue to employ the vigilance of customs agents will continue to prevail.
“Today is a great example of how the officers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection work daily to stop the illegal drug flow into the United States. Even though these would-be smugglers are trying new concealment methods each and every day, I just want to remind them that if they try to get through Chicago, we will catch them.”
This recent drug bust is hardly the first that has occurred at O’Hare’s, and indeed they are not the first persons returning from Laos or Japan who have attempted to smuggle in illicit drugs.
In March, another Minnesota native with the same last name as one of the three women in this smuggling instance was arrested on similar charges. Khoua Vang, 49, was arrested at O’Hare International Airport after more than 38 pounds of drugs was found in her luggage during a return trip from Laos. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found over 3,500 methamphetamine pills along with about 37-and-a-half pounds of opium when they searched her luggage. The 49-year-old woman also appeared in bond court at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building and was ordered held on $100,000 bail by Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr.
Court documents showed that the meth pills and opium Khoua Vang attempted to smuggle were believed to have a street value of almost $518,000. The woman was also ordered to surrender her passport and faces charges related to possession and dealing of methamphetamine as well as charges for opium possession and dealing. Her next court appearance is scheduled for May 13.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Kris Grogan also spoke of a seizure in March where the drugs were being smuggled in the form of a powdered drink mix. He stated that “they try to conceal it a little bit differently,” and it is difficult to determine whether or not there is a pattern. However, the Inquisitr previously reported that Chicago seems to be experiencing a heroin overdose epidemic.
The authorities are investing the incidents to see if there is a possibility that they are all related.
[Photo Courtesy of the Chicago Police Department]