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Accused meth smuggler, caught at LAX, is charged

September 16, 2011 |  3:00 pm

LAX2011-09-0440_-_Pic_31  A Compton man bound for Japan has been charged with drug trafficking after Transportation Security Administration officials at LAX discovered nearly 5 pounds of methamphetamine concealed inside TGI Fridays Potato Skins snack bags in his backpack.

Lemuel Giovani Espinosa, 21, of Compton appeared in federal court Thursday after agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested him Wednesday.

TSA officers discovered the drugs in his carry-on bag during the X-ray screening process as he prepared to board a flight to Narita International Airport, outside Tokyo. U.S. customs officers seized the contraband and determined that it was, in fact, a controlled substance.

Espinosa planned to deliver the contraband to a person in Japan in return for a $6,000 payment, according to an affidavit in the case. Federal agents estimate the methamphetamine would have sold on the street in Japan for more than $200,000.

"Drug traffickers are always trying novel ways to conceal their contraband,” said Marlon V. Miller, an ICE deputy special agent in Los Angeles. Espinosa was charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. He was ordered held without bond pending his arraignment, which is set for Oct. 3. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison

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-- Richard Winton

Twitter.com/lacrimes

Photo: Methamphetamine in a snack bag.  Credit: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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