Use of “ghost baggage”
A Detroit, Michigan-based drug ring called “Team Cookies” was laundering money at the MotorCity Casino and other gambling venues, according to court documents.
distribution of marijuana, fentanyl, oxycodone, methamphetamine, cocaine, and crack cocaine
Federal authorities charged 13 members of the group in February with drug trafficking and money laundering after tying them to the transportation and distribution of marijuana, fentanyl, oxycodone, methamphetamine, cocaine, and crack cocaine.
The gang was able to move drugs through commercial airlines by using “ghost baggage.” Members of the gang in Phoenix, Arizona would buy plane tickets to Detroit and pack suitcases with various illicit drugs but would not get on the flight after checking in their bags. Other members would then go pick up the bags from the luggage carousel at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and sell the drugs to local and external communities.
Detroit drug ring busted
Prosecutors learned that members of the syndicate would take pictures of the luggage tag at the Phoenix airport and send it to the courier in charge of picking up the bag in Detroit.
stuffed with 2.5 pounds of cocaine and $7,950 cash
Authorities were first alerted to the use of ghost baggage by a tip in 2020. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was then able to locate a suspicious bag, which was stuffed with 2.5 pounds of cocaine and $7,950 cash.
The bag was marked for a Detroit woman named Kapri Oldham, with whom investigators quickly arranged a meeting, Oldham refused to cooperate, but investigators found that she had recently spoken to an Instagram user known as “WhoppDog,” who was labeled as a dangerous and well-armed felon.
“WhoppDog” was later revealed to be 37-year-old Kyle Kennard. His Instagram was filled with pictures of him with cash, drugs, guns, and casino chips, as well as luggage and luggage tags. He could also be seen wearing an ankle monitor in many of the images during a time in which he was on house arrest as the result of a separate case.
The big break in the case came when police were able to track the drugs to a safe house where they were repackaged and sold thanks to a hidden security camera installed on a utility pole.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Portelli spoke on the magnitude of the arrests in court.
“This indictment… involved a drug trafficking organization that engaged not only in trafficking some drugs but trafficking an immense amount of drugs,” said Portelli. “Over a million pills of fentanyl… are involved in this, as well as… other substances.”
MotorCity Casino used for money laundering
As investigators continued down the path revealed by Kennard, they found that he had spent a lot of time at the MotorCity Casino. He used the pseudonym “Cajuan Johnson” to launder money earned through the sale of drugs and other criminal activities.
They were also able to use social media to connect Kennard to 33-year-old Leo Todd, who they believe is the mastermind of the group. Additionally, authorities identified 27-year-old Cesar Garcia as the Arizona man who was supplying the drugs and sending them across state lines.
Kennard will stay behind bars until March when his trial is scheduled to begin.
“Kennard ain’t some kid with a penny bag,” Portelli humorously said while arguing to keep him in jail until the trial begins.
Todd and Kennard are both looking at at least ten years in prison if they are convicted.
108,000 people died of drug overdoses in the USA in 2021—71,000 of those directly consumed Fentanyl or Fentanyl-related substances, according to the CDC. Fentanyl overdoses also accounted for 77% of overdose deaths in minors.