Two sisters recently took a weeklong cruise —touring the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Mexico — and came back with several kilos of cocaine hidden in the lining of their backpacks, a federal investigator alleged in a criminal complaint.
The pair were aboard the MSC Seascape Cruise Ship and departed from the Port of Miami on July 16, the investigator wrote. When the cruise returned to Miami around July 23, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conducted an “enforcement operation” and encountered the sisters in their shared cabin, according to the complaint, first reported by CourtWatch.
Officers instructed the two to bring their luggage for a “secondary inspection,” according to the court document. The complaint does not state what triggered the search.
A federal prosecutor assigned to the case did not respond to Insider’s request for comment sent outside of working hours.
When the sisters left the cabin with their belongings, a narcotic detection dog that was brought aboard to assist with the search “exhibited a changed behavior and alerted to the odor of narcotics” coming from one of the women’s belongings, the complaint stated, so the sisters were separated and searched.
During the search, federal investigators allege, officers found “an anomaly sewed inside the lining” of the pair’s backpacks.
Inside each bag: two packages of cocaine weighing about 2.40 kilograms.
In total, about 4.75 kilograms of cocaine was hidden in the backpacks, which Summer Louis, a Homeland Security agent, estimated to be worth between $15,000 to $40,000, according to the complaint.
An MSC Cruises spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment sent outside of working hours.
The sisters denied knowing about drugs inside their luggage in statements to law enforcement, though one of the pair told investigators that she noticed her backpack was “heavier than she originally remembered” after she left her bag behind at a restaurant to use the restroom during their July 19 stop in Jamaica.
One of the sisters told authorities that friends they had met up with in Jamaica asked if she wanted a bag to put her belongings in. The woman said she “did not notice anything suspicious about the bag because she did not see anything inside it” and took the bag back to the ship, the complaint stated.
CBP officers reviewed security footage from the cruise ship. On July 19, footage showed the pair leaving together and returning separately to the ship while wearing “dark-colored backpacks,” according to the complaint.
Lawyers for the sisters declined to comment or did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
Phone records also showed that one of the sisters sent a message two days before the cruise trip to a contact named “Kenny Jamaica.”
The text, according to the complaint, read in part: “I don’t know what u doing but am not doing it no more so whatever u got going on let it stop playing with me and now you not going to pick up the phone.”
The sisters told investigators that they were not asked or paid to smuggle drugs, according to the complaint.
Federal prosecutors are accusing the sisters of importing a controlled substance, though no charges have yet been filed.