TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Two sisters allegedly smuggled more than $40,000 worth of cocaine in their suitcase while traveling on an MSC Seascape cruise.
On July 23, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) conducted an operation after the cruise arrived back in Port of Miami after traveling to the Bahamas, Jamaica and Mexico.
Takeia Harder and Schneeka Renee Parker were instructed by officers to bring their belongings for an inspection by a trained narcotics canine.
While Harder and Parker left their cabin with their belongings, the canine allegedly changed behavior and alerted them to the odor of narcotics in Parker’s suitcase.
The two were escorted to a secondary inspection area at the Port of Miami.
CPB gave Customs Declaration Forms to the women to claim ownership of their belongings. Officers then searched the women and their luggage.
In Herder’s belongings, authorities said they found an anomaly sewn inside the lining of her Samsonite dark-colored backpack inside her suitcase. Two rectangular foam-covered packages containing a white powdery substance, weighing 2.35 kilograms were found and tested positive for cocaine.
In Parker’s belongings, a similar backpack was found inside the lining of her luggage as well. Officers said they discovered a white powdery substance weighing 2.4 kilograms in two rectangular foam-covered packages. That substance also tested positive for cocaine.
Security footage from July 16 through July 19 allegedly shows the women arriving on the ship and disembarking at ports, carrying the dark-colored backpacks of which the substance was found.
In a post-Miranda law enforcement interview, Herder said she and her sister met with a friend in Jamaica, one of the cruise ports, and went to a restaurant with him and another individual.
She told authorities that when she got up to use the restroom, she came back to her bag feeling heavier. She denied any knowledge of narcotics in her backpack or any claim of being asked or paid to smuggle the drugs.
In an interview with Parker, she claims they met with two of Herder’s friends in Jamaica. But before the women returned to the ship, one of Herder’s friends asked Parker if she wanted a bag to put her towels and other belonging in. Parker claims she didn’t notice anything suspicious and denied any knowledge of the narcotics.
Officials searched both Parker’s and Herder’s cellphones, in which they discovered multiple WhatsApp, phone calls and texts to a Jamaican area code.
They found a message Herder sent two days leading up to the trip to a person named “Kenny Jamaica” in which she said that she doesn’t “do **** at the last minute but is cool am done I don’t know what u doing but am not doing it no more so what ever u got going on let it stop playing with me and now you not going to pick up the phone.”
There was no response to the message.
Federal prosecutors are accusing the sisters, but no charges have been filed.