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Man Arrested After Importing 500 Grams of MDMA in a Teddy Bear
Just days before police in Barrington, New Hampshire, announced they had arrested an individual for ordering heroin disguised in a package of gummy bears, Utah authorities arrested a man for allegedly ordering more than 500 grams of MDMA that federal authorities found inside a stuffed teddy bear. A local newspaper reported that the MDMA was valued at more than $100,000.
Officials with the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agency intercepted the package before it had even entered the mail stream, according to a probable cause statement filed prior to the recipient’s arrest. CBP diverted the package to a Department of Homeland Security laboratory where a special agent tested the contents of the stuffed bear. The black and white teddy bear, according to tests performed by the Department of Homeland Security agent, contained 543 grams of MDMA. CBP noted that the package originated from an unidentified supplier in Germany.
The federal government’s ability to identify and intercept packages before they enter the mail stream is nothing new. Customs and Border Protection services handles the majority of the treatment of international mail packages, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations plays a role as well. ICE-HSI often provides and compiles intelligence for both CBP and the United States Postal Service (USPS) that identifies priority targets, allowing both CBP and USPS to prioritize their time and resources by applying more scrutiny to packages from locations frequently associated with illegal activity. Specifically illegal activity as it relates to illegal material entering the United States.
All international packages arrive at a United States Postal Service Sorting Facility. The international packages are then shipped to a CBP facilitywhere they are sorted and scanned. CBP sorts packages by priority. Many are documented for tax or tariff purposes. But many are examined based on package profile, country of origin, or specific location within a country known as a drug trafficking hotspot. Any reader of the former darknetmarkets subreddit knew packages from the Netherlands received extra scrutiny. Packages from some parts of Germany receive a similar treatment.
The packages then get sent to USPS (with the exception of seized mail or mail designated for CBP mail branches). And then local law enforcement receives a notification regarding an incoming package of a certain illegal substance. Local law enforcement researches the intended recipient in the cases where such research is possible and then prepares to act on the information immediately and make an arrest or use the information to build a case against the intended recipient.
In this case, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office decided to act on the information provided by CBP. A CBP agent gave a member of the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force all the information needed to identify the package (and likely the tracking information). Unlike many cases with a similar beginning, the case of the MDMA-stuffed teddy bear lacked the address of the intended recipient. Instead, the package was addressed to the Orem post office (in some parts of the United States, the Post Office can accept a person’s packages but usually only after pre-authorization from the package recipient).
In many drug cases, law enforcement will ask the Post Office to hold a person’s package in an effort to lure the recipient to the Post Office. In this case, Utah law enforcement simply waited for a person to come pick up the package in the day of its arrival. They identified 29-year-old Manteo Soto as the package recipient after he had arrived at the Post Office and signed for the package. Undercover officers tailed Soto to an apartment complex, according to a Utah County Major Crimes Task Force investigator.
“The male passenger in the vehicle then exited the vehicle with the yellow DHL package containing the MDMA and began running northbound through the parking lot. He jumped several fences and then abandoned the DHL box which was recovered by detectives,” the investigator wrote in the report. The same investigator continued to follow Soto who drive to a remote parking lot, parked his vehicle, and entered police custody without incident.
The 29-year-old denied knowledge of the package contents and refused to identify the friend who had fled the vehicle with the MDMA. They booked him on one count of felony distribution of a controlled substance and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.