Drug smugglers tried to bring marijuana worth tens of thousands of dollars into the Charleston area the easy way: by mailing it.
U.S. postal inspectors recently intercepted four separate packages that, combined, totaled nearly 46 pounds of weed. Charleston County Sheriff's Sgt. Brian Hodge, who is not involved with this investigation, said the drug could fetch anywhere from $2,000 per pound to $4,000 per pound locally.
That means the four seized parcels carry a street value of $92,000 to $184,000.
Authorities declined to comment on these particular seizures by postal inspectors. Although each package included a return address, the origin of the marijuana remains unknown.
Investigators held all four packages last week in the U.S. Postal Inspection Service office in Columbia and filed for warrants with a judge there. Beth Drake, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, declined to say whether investigators made any arrests in connection with the parcels, though court records reflect no such arrests.
Harry Spratlin, Columbia-based communications coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service, said criminals typically use Express or Priority mail to reduce the number of hands on their parcels. Each of the four recent seizures came through Express mail.
One of the four packages, addressed to an apartment in Ladson, weighed 3 pounds, 6 ounces. The postal inspector wrote in court filings that the recipient did not live at the listed address and that the return address, a business called SWC Tile in Santa Rosa, Calif., does not exist.
The signature on the package, according to the postal inspector, was unreadable.
The postal inspector brought in an investigator with the Lexington County Narcotics Enforcement team and his drug-detecting dog, Ben. Placed in a room with six other packages, Ben only responded to the parcel in question, court records say.
A magistrate judge granted a warrant, and the inspector discovered a vacuum-sealed package of "a green leafy substance."
A similar process was followed for the other packages containing marijuana.