Drugs Were Found In A Passenger’s Luggage, Now He’s Suing The Airline

Frequent flyers know that checked baggage is never a good idea. It can get you arrested even when there’s nothing illegal inside. They say there’s only two kinds of luggage: carry on and lost. It turns out there’s a third, “accessory to a crime.”

A New York man flying Caribbean Airlines back from Georgetown, Guyana was arrested when police found cocaine in his checked luggage. It was his luggage but he invoked The Shaggy Defense. He said wasn’t me. And he committed so fully to the story that he’s even suing Caribbean Airlines.

  • He was arrested on arrival at New York JFK and detained for a week

  • But it’s actually a pretty good way to transport drugs, stick the package in someone’s checked bags and have someone working luggage at the other end collect it from the bag. Just text them a photo of the bag they’re looking for.

Caribbean Airlines Boeing 737 departing from Fort Lauderdale to Jamaica, Copyright: icholakov

The man denied the drugs were his after charges were dropped. He now says, since the bags were in Caribbean Airlines’ possession, the airline has to take financial responsibility for his suffering.

Wilson claims he lost his job, and his reputation within the Guyanese community in Queens became tarnished despite being vindicated. The family man also said he’s frequently questioned by customs agents when he’s at airports as his identity has been flagged, and as such, has to carry documents to prove he has been cleared of the alleged crime.

He’ll no longer check a bag. Period. That way “[n]obody can screw with me anymore.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hate to say it but the man’s story is very plausible. I just take carryon luggage to South America, but on one trip back I bought local beer for a coworker and had to place it in a checked bag. I was strongly advised to have the bag shrink wrapped to avoid anyone placing drugs in it. It seems using other people’s luggage to transport drugs is an old trick in many South American airports.

  2. I feel very sorry for this man. He is a victim of the war on drugs that says you don’t own your own body. None of this would be an issue if government didn’t violate the fundamental freedom of a person putting into his own body what he pleases. All the violence involving drugs is due to the criminal and underground element which flourishes because cops turn something which should be purchased in a drug store/liquor store for $5.00 into something worth $300.

    Even under the draconian drug laws that exist, this man should not have been arrested. Checking baggage with an airline means that it is not in your presence for 6-24 hours and can be tampered with. That is permanent reasonable doubt and there can be no probable cause when a bag was not in the owner’s custody. Even if bags are under surveillance (cops should check surveillance before arresting someone), there is no surveillance when bags are being loaded on or off a plane. It’s very easy for a baggage handler to slip something in a bag.

    The airline should settle with this man for a few hundred thousand dollars, but I don’t entirely blame the airline. They can’t control TSA screeners or their equivalent or private security contracted to an airport. They can’t fully control an errant employee. It’s impossible. The airline and the man should sue the government for him being arrested, jailed for a week, bail expenses, legal expenses, and reputation damage to both the man and the airline. It’s why we need protections that expunge completely from every government database an arrest where charges were dropped or someone was found not guilty. It’s why photos and names should not be released in cases not involving a serious case of theft, vandalism, assault (a simple scuffle arrest is not serious), murder, rape, or etc. We don’t need riots, burning private property, or attacking civilians by protesters, though. The enemy is the police state and it should be a bipartisan effort against the police state.

  3. Interesting. I had a similar experience once.

    Travelling YWG ORD LHR with UA in First, I had a three-hour layover in Chicago. When I arrived in London, I found that my bag had been misplaced. Later that day, I was advised that it had turned up in Hong Kong and would be forwarded to London the next day.

    It duly arrived and appeared untouched, although open. There was no US Government note indicating official examination.

    I am convinced that my bag had been used as a mule. There was no logical way that a First-tagged bag with a long connecting time could have been redirected to Hong Kong without interference. I suspect that contraband, drugs, arms, money had been inserted in ORD, removed at HKG and the bag duly forwarded in accordance with the lost-luggage instruction.

    It happens.

  4. @Jack – Even if “drugs” were made legal, the local Gov’t would tax the hell out of it and it would still be cheaper on the street. Look at the price of cannabis in the states that have legalized it. Because of all the fingers in the pie so to speak, it’s still cheaper to get it via “non legal” means.

  5. @Patrick

    To some extent that is true, and that’s why our push should be to decriminalize drugs and oppose taxes on them (same with opposing the soda tax or rain tax. Idk what the rain tax is but I saw numerous signs in PA saying oppose the rain tax). Eric Garner wouldn’t have died if the government didn’t tax cigarettes. However, a lot of people would buy drugs from proper stores just like they do alcohol, cigarettes, aspirin, Tylenol, and anything else even with tax. It certainly puts things in the right direction. It’s a start.

  6. Had a relative fly BOS to SYD. When they arrived in SYD the 3 dvd portable players they had in their luggage was missing and the locks were broken. This was when the x ray machines were in baggage area.

  7. @Jackson – good points all. Plenty of “ifs” though. If the Gov’t didn’t tax this or that. They tax EVERYTHING. I don’t know how that’s ever going to go away. Be it city, state of federal taxes.

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