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22 pounds of cocaine seized

New York woman faces up to 31 years in prison for allegedly trying to smuggle illegal drug.

September 25, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

BOB HOPE AIRPORT — A 47-year-old woman who authorities said tried to smuggle nearly 22 pounds of cocaine through a security checkpoint at Bob Hope Airport is scheduled to appear Oct. 6 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Cecilley Grant, of Queens, N.Y., was transferred to Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, where she has been held in lieu of $1-million bail. Grant pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony counts related to possessing, selling and transferring cocaine after airport police arrested her Sunday, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

A hold has been placed on the source of bail to ensure that the money had been legally obtained, Gibbons said.

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Grant faces a maximum of 31 years in state prison based on the amount of cocaine, Gibbons added.

Transportation Security Administration officials said all belongings transported on aircraft are screened before takeoff. Grant’s carry-on luggage, including two shoulder bags, was flagged when agents grew suspicious that the bags might contain explosives, airport Police Chief Ed Skvarna said.

“They’re very careful,” Skvarna said. “The way this stuff was packaged, it could just as easily have been explosive martial.”

Transportation Security Administration agents and Bob Hope Airport police routinely stop and arrest passengers trying to smuggle small amounts of drugs for personal use through security checkpoints, Skvarna said.

Perhaps the most recent high-profile bust came when Cordozar Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus was arrested three years ago at Bob Hope Airport on suspicion of transporting marijuana and a firearm.

But Sunday’s arrest stood out because of the sheer quantity of cocaine and the suspect’s brass, Skvarna said.

“The amount here is uncommon,” he said. “We just don’t see that kind of quantity.”

Airport police responded about 6:15 a.m. Sunday to the security checkpoint in Terminal A after Transportation Security Administration agents inspected Grant’s luggage.

“When TSA emptied them out, the bags were still abnormally heavy,” Burbank police Sgt. Travis Irving said.

Grant’s flight from Bob Hope Airport to JFK was scheduled to depart at 7 a.m., according to police and airport officials.

Irving said officers checked her two shoulder bags and saw homemade stitching running across large swaths of the material. Officers tore open the seams and found a substance that tested positive for cocaine, he said.

Airport police made the arrests and filed reports before referring the case to the Burbank Police Department. Authorities said they could not estimate the street or wholesale value of the cocaine.

Skvarna called the discovery a testament to the effectiveness of his officers and security screeners.

“We’re constantly looking for suspicious activity,” he said. “One person took a pretty big risk on this particular time, and, if more of these things happen, we’ll be the first to call it a trend.”


 CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO covers Burbank City Hall and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at christopher.cadelago@ latimes.com.

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