USA, New York: Innocent passenger used as mule by baggage handler drug ring.

Source: NY Post / Reuters (Reporter: Christopher Sadowski)
Roger Levans (above) was imprisoned after Customs officials at JFK Airport found bricks of cocaine in his luggage.  Photo: Dennis Clark
Roger Levans (above) was imprisoned after Customs officials at JFK Airport found bricks of cocaine in his luggage.  Photo: Dennis Clark

A former Yankee Stadium security guard lost his job, went through a humiliating full-body strip search and faced the threat of spending the rest of his life in jail — all because someone planted two bricks of cocaine in his luggage.

Roger Levans, 56, of South Ozone Park, Queens, said the cascade of horrors began Dec. 29, 2010, after he got off his Delta Air Lines flight from Guyana, where he’d been visiting family for Christmas — and didn’t end until March, when the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn finally dropped its bombshell drug charges. Levans yesterday filed a lawsuit against Delta in Queens Superior Court, citing severe emotional distress, financial loss and damage to his reputation — and described the shock of being charged with a crime he didn’t commit.

As he went through Customs at JFK, Levans recalled, he was asked what he was carrying.

“I told them I had cooked rabbit and fish” in one suitcase, he said. 

But when that piece of luggage went through the security scanner, “I heard the officer say, ‘I’m seeing something here, what is this?’

“I was looking at it — it was kind of shocking,” he recalled. “I wanted to know what he saw. He put the suitcase on the counter and when he opened the suitcase, there was no lock on it.”

And there was a big black bag with cocaine right alongside the fish and rabbit, he said.

“I was like, ‘How did this get into my suitcase?’ ” he recalled.

“[The cocaine] was literally taped up with brown tape. I was scared when I saw this thing. Then the inspector looked at me and said I was in a lot of trouble.”

Levans said when he checked in at Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana, all three of his suitcases were secured with small locks. But at the JFK Customs check, “There was a tiny ribbon on the handle of [one] suitcase. It was never there before,” he said.

He said that what followed changed his life forever.

“I was handcuffed and then taken to another room,” he said. “I was stripped. They told me to take off my clothes . . . bend down. After they found nothing, they told me to put back on my clothes. They handcuffed my hands and my feet. They shackled me to a bench.”

Levans was then put in a cell and denied even a call to his wife.

“A lot of things were flashing through my mind,” he said. “I don’t like to think about it because it gives me a nightmare.”

The horror continued for three months, he said — during which time Levans was investigated in both the US and Guyana. But what investigators found was that Levans’ luggage had been tampered with while it was in the custody of Delta, said his lawyer, Michael Borrelli. 

“I could have spent up to 40 years in prison” on the charges, he said.

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UPDATE:  On 10 December 2015, Roger Levans was awarded 759,000 USD in damages against Delta by a jury in a civil action he filed in relation to this incident.  Delta maintains its denial of responsibility and intends to appeal the decision.  

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