A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer was caught allegedly smuggling nearly 40 lbs. of cocaine in his airplane luggage earlier this year.
On Monday, 40-year-old Ivan Van Beverhoudt pleaded not guilty to federal charges involving the importation of cocaine, possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, according to court records.
In January, Van Beverhoudt traveled from the U.S. Virgin Islands — where he was stationed with the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection — through Atlanta, en route to Baltimore, Maryland.
While at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, according to a probable cause affidavit, a K-9 unit dog named Anti sniffed out the narcotics and alerted its handlers of Van Beverhoudt’s carry-on bags.
Since Van Beverhoudt was carrying his government-issued weapon, he was allowed to bypass normal airport screening because he was a law enforcement officer “flying while armed,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Upon searching the man’s roller bag, authorities found 14 bricks of what tested positive for cocaine, some labeled with a wrapper that read “V-03,” according to the affidavit. Two more bricks were discovered in another bag.
“Mr. Van Beverhoudt was a well-respected and superb Customs and Border Patrol agent for many years,” an attorney representing Van Beverhoudt told PEOPLE in a statement. “We are just starting our investigation of this matter and are confident that, after a full and thorough airing of the matter, he will be totally vindicated.”
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“This officer allegedly abused his office to engage in criminal conduct,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in a press release. “Federal law enforcement officers take an oath to uphold the law. When an officer violates that oath, he or she will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Part of Van Beverhoudt’s duties was the inspection of flights to prevent the importation of controlled substances on airplanes, the DOJ noted in the news release.
“CBP officers take an Oath of Office, a solemn pledge that conveys great responsibility and one that should be carried out at all times with the utmost professionalism,” said Todd Bellew, area port director in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. “Inappropriate behavior or misconduct is not tolerated and does not reflect our values of vigilance, integrity and professionalism.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
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