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)
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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

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