Federal authorities and local police seized more than 150 kilograms of cocaine - valued at $4 million wholesale and as much as $40 million on the street - late Wednesday in the Baltimore area and have filed federal drug importation charges against a New York man, officials said yesterday.
Law enforcement officials called the narcotics seizure one of the region's largest in recent years.
"This is a huge arrest, this is a lot of drugs that are not going to reach the streets of our city," Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark said at a news conference with federal authorities and other local law enforcement officials to announce the seizure.
Charged federally with conspiring to import more than 5 kilograms of cocaine into the United States was Paul Chooweenam, 33, of Jamaica, N.Y. He could face maximum penalties of life in prison and a $4 million fine.
The investigation began about two weeks ago when agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement received a tip that about 155 kilograms of cocaine were being shipped by freighter from Guyana, a nation on the northern coast of South America, officials said.
The freighter arrived in Savannah, Ga., on Tuesday, and federal agents tracked the shipment as it moved by truck to Maryland, officials said.
On Wednesday night, authorities said, the shipment arrived at an undisclosed location in the Baltimore area and someone opened it for Chooweenam. About 130 kilograms of the drug were then packed into four large suitcases and Chooweenam was quickly arrested, officials said.
The entire shipment amounted to 154 kilograms, or about 338 pounds, of cocaine, they said.
Police and federal agents said the probe was continuing.