The Investigators: Smugglers trying to bring drugs, weapons, fake money through JFK Airport

NEW YORK (WABC) -- From weapons to fake money to drugs, customs agents have seen it all.

And now we're showing you what they're up against. Drugs shipped to the U.S. can lead to danger back overseas.

In the last year-and-a-half, it's stunning the amount of drugs, weapons, and counterfeit money people have tried to smuggle through JFK airport.

Tens of millions of dollars worth of contraband in the last 18 months alone.

And in the case of one illegal commodity, it's being seized by the tons.

It's amazing the lengths people will go to to smuggle drugs through JFK. They've hidden cocaine in meat, put it inside a condom, even a cocaine diaper or the not so original.

"I've been here 13 years and I'm still amazed at what they try to smuggle and how they try to smuggle it in," said James Bowles of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Records we've obtained show that from January 2014 until September of this year, Customs and Border Protection at JFK Airport made 246 cocaine seizures. They also seized a lot of weapons during the 18 month period. 234 to be exact.

"It is a 30 odd-six, high powered rifle with a high-powered scope," Ray Zizzo of U.S. Customs Border Protection said of one weapon.

And counterfeit money is seized almost every day at the airport. From fake cashier checks and money orders to bogus bucks, 299 counterfeit seizures in the last year-and-a-half.

"The unbelievable number is that these seizures total in the range of about $50 million," said Andrew Solarsh of Customs and Border Protection.

By far though, the most seized illegal commodity being smuggled through JFK, more than cocaine, counterfeit money, and weapons combined is a narcotic leaf extremely popular in the growing East African communities in the U.S., a drug known as KHAT, commonly used back in Somalia and Yemen but an illegal stimulant here.

("This is all KHAT"?, we asked.) "Yes, this is all KHAT coming from all different countries around the world. We see a lot of it from Ethiopia, Yemen. The amount of KHAT that comes through the JFK mail facility is unbelievable." said Solarsh.

More than 24,000 pounds of KHAT has been seized at JFK in the last fiscal year, most of it at the airport's international mail facility.

"This is coming from Ethiopia and going to Atlanta Georgia," said Solarsh. "And they want you to believe it is African Spices?", we asked. "Yes, absolutely," he said.

We asked the Customs Inspector to open it up to see if it was African Spices.

Jim Hoffer: "So this is KHAT, not African Spices."
Andrew Solarsh: "No, that's KHAT."
Jim Hoffer: "And it's a narcotic."
Andrew Solarsh: "It's a scheduled #1 narcotic and it is something that is going to give someone the feeling of being invincible, we all know the dangers of that."

The big concern in the U-S is that money from the KHAT trade could be funding terrorist groups. The mail warehouse is filled with KHAT seized in just the past few months.

Jim Hoffer: "This was to be shipped where?"
Andrew Solarsh: "This was to be shipped all over the country. A lot of it we will see if we look at tags addresses are NYC, the 5 boroughs, Long Island, out of state, Atlanta Georgia, Nebraska, all over."

What is seized represents a tiny fraction of what is getting through with millions and millions of dollars flowing back to Africa.

"The bottom line is KHAT is coming into this country constantly and by it coming in constantly the room may empty but gets filled up again," said Solarsh.

In the last year-and-a-half, Customs and Border Protection has seized almost 10 tons of KHAT at the J-F-K mail facility.

The F-B-I has been concerned about KHAT drug money passing through groups with possible ties to terrorist groups, but arrests of those in the KHAT trade are rare.
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