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Fake Pilots Busted in Madrid Trying to Smuggle Drugs

Travel News — By Carlo Alcos on May 17, 2010 at 7:07 am

Catch me if you can. And they did. Two men dressed head to toe in pilot outfits were recently arrested at the Madrid airport trying to bring in 55 kg of cocaine in their carry-on bags. They had flown from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The pair caught the eye of local narcotics police when they checked out with other passengers, rather than airline staff. Their travel documents quickly revealed they were not who they appeared to be. Details of the men’s nationalities have not been released.

Spain is considered the main entry point for drugs smuggled from South America bound for Europe. Boats are usually the vehicle used to bring in drugs, but commercial flights are sometimes used as well.

Perhaps they could have learned some lessons from Frank Abagnale Jr., portrayed by Leonardo di Caprio in the 2002 comedy-drama Catch Me If You Can. The famous con-artist impersonated an airline pilot as one of his alter-egos. Between the ages of 16 and 18, he flew over 1,000,000 miles on over 250 flights to 26 countries. He did this by deadheading — flying return flights that carried no paying passengers or cargo.

If ever he was asked to take control of the plane, he used the “8 hours between the bottle and throttle” (referring to consumption of alcohol) excuse as a convenient way out of it. In addition to scoring free flights, he also had airlines pay for his food and lodging. No doubt he could have moved around narcotics too if he’d so chosen, though we imagine the free flight were more than enough incentive to commit identity fraud and other felonies.

For more strange drug smuggling stories, see Cocaine Potatoes and Other Creative Smugglers’ Attempts.

[Image: nedrichards / Flickr]

Tags: Bolivia, drugs, smuggling, spain

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