Three US nationals have been convicted after being caught attempting to smuggle large quantities of cannabis into the UK through Heathrow airport.
From left to right: Barrington Walters, Mandy Silowka and Kiara Lanee Malone
National Crime Agency investigators say the trio, who all arrived in the UK on flights from Los Angeles in January, were arrested in possession of cannabis with a combined estimated street value of more than £1.7 million.
Barrington Walters, 24, from Los Angeles, and Mandy Silowka, 34, from Princeton, New Jersey, were both stopped after arriving on the same United Airlines flight from LA on 17 January.
Border Force officers found 33 kilos of herbal cannabis in bags belonging to Walters, and a further 26.5 kilos in suitcases checked in by Silowka.
After being interviewed by NCA officers the pair were charged with importing class B drugs.
At Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday 23 February they both admitted the offence. Silowka received a 12 month custodial sentence, while Walters was given a 10 month jail term.
Meanwhile in a hearing at the same court today (24 February) Kiara Lanee Malone, 31, from St Louis, Missouri, pleaded guilty to importing class B drugs.
The clothing boutique owner was arrested on 10 January, also having arrived from Los Angeles. 27.5 kilos of cannabis was found in her luggage.
Malone told NCA officers that she was travelling to the UK to have cosmetic procedures, and while she had been given the bags to bring to the UK by someone else, she believed they contained clothes rather than drugs.
She was remanded in custody to be sentenced on 5 April.
NCA Heathrow Branch Commander Andy Noyes said:
“These cases serve as further warnings to those who think they can get away with smuggling drugs into the UK.
“No matter what you might get told by those organising these trips, you will get caught, and as these individuals will tell you, you will face jail time.
“The NCA and our partners in Border Force are determined to do all we can to target drugs couriers, and disrupt the international organised crime groups involved in drug trafficking.”
The convictions follow a spate of arrests involving seizures made from flights from the US. Cannabis grown legally in parts of America attracts a premium price in the UK.
On Wednesday 22 February 20-year-old US national Isabella Carrasco was arrested following a large cannabis seizure at Edinburgh airport. She had arrived on a flight from LA, via London.
Carrasco has been charged and committed to appear before Edinburgh Sheriff Court next week. The case is being investigated by the Organised Crime Partnership (Scotland), a joint team of NCA and Police Scotland officers.
24 February 2023