UNION CITY — A Hudson County man on his way back from the Dominican Republic was stopped with over 30 pounds of cocaine in his wheelchair, US Customs and Border Protection said.

Authorities said Gabriel Ruiz, 34, of Union City, arrived from Punta Cana on June 20 at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshal Airport in Maryland.

When going through customs, CBP officers told Ruiz he needed a secondary examination. This gave officers a look inside his Jazzy 614 electric wheelchair using an x-ray.

The x-ray revealed "anomalies" in the wheelchair's seat cushions and backseat, according to CBP. In total, officers reported seizing 13 bricks of cocaine worth nearly $1 million.

The 13 cocaine bricks CBP said were found in the seat cushions of Ruiz's wheelchair. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
The 13 cocaine bricks CBP said were found in the seat cushions of Ruiz's wheelchair. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

Ruiz was arrested the next day by police officers with the Maryland Transportation Authority. He faces state felony narcotics importation and possession charges.

“Concealing dangerous drugs inside wheelchair seat cushions is unusual,” Thomas Heffernan, acting director for the Area Port of Baltimore, said.

Ruiz is not the only wheelchair-bound man accused of smuggling cocaine from the Dominican Republic.

Alexander Lopez-Morel, 22, was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina late last month with 23 pounds of cocaine in his wheelchair, according to CBP. Lopez-Morel is charged with felony trafficking in cocaine.

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at richard.rickman@townsquaremedia.com

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

Here's where NJ legal weed is sold

The number of recreational cannabis dispensaries continues to grow, with close to two dozen state approvals given since the first adult recreational sales in the state back in April. Here is where the open sites are located.

New Jersey's new legislative districts for the 2020s

Boundaries for the 40 legislative districts for the Senate and Assembly elections of 2023 through 2029, and perhaps 2031, were approved in a bipartisan vote of the Apportionment Commission on Feb. 18, 2022. The map continues to favor Democrats, though Republicans say it gives them a chance to win the majority.

New Jersey's smallest towns by population

New Jersey's least populated municipalities, according to the 2020 Census. This list excludes Pine Valley, which would have been the third-smallest with 21 residents but voted to merge into Pine Hill at the start of 2022.

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM