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Traveler arrested at LAX on suspicion of smuggling cocaine in Easter egg candy

December 27, 2010 | 12:26 pm

It was an unexpected Easter egg hunt in December.

Esteban Galtes, 23, of Miami, was arrested Thursday night at Los Angeles International Airport after federal agents searched his luggage and discovered more than 14 pounds of cocaine, much of it hidden in pastel-covered, egg-shaped candy, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities.

Galtes told authorities the candy was for his two children.

The remainder of the cocaine was hidden under the cardboard bottom of a paper shopping bag, authorities said. The seized cocaine has an estimated street value of more than $100,000.

Galtes was returning to the United States after a one-week trip to Colombia, authorities said. If convicted of "importation of a controlled substance," Galtes could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison.  

“Drug traffickers are always trying novel ways to conceal their contraband,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of ICE’s investigations in Los Angeles. “But cocaine camouflaged as Easter candy is one of the more unusual tactics we’ve come across. Obviously two days before Christmas, this defendant didn’t expect his trip would end with federal officers conducting an Easter egg hunt.”

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities intercepted a cache of cocaine that was hidden inside candy Easter eggs. Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection