Federal authorities have arrested five men accused of smuggling several kilograms of cocaine into New Orleans aboard a cruise ship coming from Honduras.
One of the suspects, a Jamaican man known as “Uncle,” was taken into custody following a sting operation inside a Warehouse District hotel. Authorities said he was carrying $19,000 wrapped in a black plastic bag — cash they said he intended to use to buy the smuggled drugs.
The bust happened Jan. 3 after agents with Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spotted three crewmen of the docked cruise ship Norwegian Dawn gathered inside a restroom at the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, the shopping mall adjacent to the cruise ship terminal.
Two of the men removed their shoes and pants inside restroom stalls — a red flag to border security, as smugglers often hide drugs in their clothing. The agents detained those two men — the third suspect having left the restroom — and seized a shoulder bag holding six packages of cocaine, one of which had been concealed “in a pair of underwear that had a compartment sewn into the crotch area,” according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
Once in custody, the two crew members, Asbert Lowmans and Jean Louis, admitted to smuggling, according to the complaint, and Lowmans “immediately agreed to cooperate with agents.”
The authorities said they eventually tracked down the third man seen in the restroom, Esias Felicien, and another suspect named Kevin John, whom Felicien had met separately in the Riverwalk.
Felicien had been headed toward the elevators, apparently to return to the cruise ship, when he was arrested carrying a shopping bag containing a “used smugglers’ girdle,” according to the complaint, which was signed by Agent Timothy Subervielle of Homeland Security Investigations.
John was said to be carrying a shopping bag of his own with another package of cocaine.
Combined, the smuggled cocaine weighed about 4.75 kilograms, according to the complaint.
Lowmans told the agents he planned to deliver the drugs to the Jamaican man he knew as “Uncle” — authorities later identified him as Alfred Dennison — in Room 120 of the SpringHill Suites hotel on St. Joseph Street.
According to the complaint, Lowmans agreed to participate in a sting in which he delivered the shoulder bag filled not with cocaine but “a jacket to give the appearance that the bag was full.”
All five suspects — the nationalities of four of them remained unknown Friday — were booked on conspiracy to import 500 or more grams of cocaine hydrochloride, a felony.
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