PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An US Customs and Border officer and her K9 are being credited for making one of the largest drug discoveries at Philadelphia International Airport.
Two passengers arriving from London Monday afternoon tried sneaking nearly 89 pounds of khat through the airport.
The plant is used as a stimulant and is labeled a narcotic by the US Customs and Border Protection.
“It can be considered like a super caffeine, except that it has a highly addictive nature to it, so it can really cause problems with people,” CBP officer Steve Sapp explained.
It was CBP officer Melissa Wallace and her two-year-old beagle Auburn who found the khat in the passenger’s suitcase.
The large seizure is made more significant by Wallace herself. She is the first CBP K9 handler who is deaf.
“I’m proud to be that way and I’m proud that I’m able to overcome a lot of things in my life and this is one of them,” Wallace explained.
Wallace, who learned to read lips, has been paired with Auburn for almost a year.
The pair is responsible for detecting food and agriculture products international passengers are carrying that could spread diseases like and Foot-and-Mouth to the United States.
Their discovery of khat Monday afternoon is believed to be the first made by a K9 and handler in our region.
“It was a great feeling. I was so excited,” Wallace said.
“Melissa’s broken so many glass ceilings in her life that this is just another challenge for her to overcome. We’re just very proud of her,” CBP officer Hal Fingerman said.
The two passengers, who were on their way home to Minnesota, were fined more than $25,000.
The khat was destroyed.
Reported By: Todd Quinones, CBS 3