Cracking down on using mail to move drugs


WASHINGTON -- The Express Mail package sent from South Pasadena, Calif., contained what looked like 100 sugar cookies. But sugar wasn't what quickly drew the attention of the police dog.

The "cookies," in fact, were patties of crack cocaine -- $300,000 worth.

So when they were delivered to an apartment in Omaha, Neb., the "mailman" had a surprise for the woman who signed for them -- a warrant.

"We were shocked when we found out how much we had, the largest seizure of crack cocaine in the history of Nebraska," said Omaha-based Postal Inspector Jerald Vajgert, who had posed as the mailman.

Yesterday, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced the results of its recent month-long "Operation Cleansweep," a nationwide effort to ferret out drugs sent by mail from 25 cities, often destined for the American heartland.

Seized in the May campaign -- paralleling a similar effort late last year -- were 33 kilograms of marijuana, five kilograms of cocaine and PCP valued at $2 million, and 130 bottles of steroids.

In the past 18 months, inspectors have confiscated 132 vehicles, 13 homes and one farm. Overall in 1991, 1,046 people have been arrested nationwide for shipping drugs through the mails -- 2 1/2 times as many as in all of 1988, authorities said.

Much of the effort had been concentrated in Los Angeles, where the city's street gangs often use the mail to deliver crack and other drugs, federal agents said.

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