22 pounds of marijuana found in suitcase at Austin airport, 2 arrested

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Nicholas Marriott, left and Kobie Howard_348690

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two people were arrested following the discovery of 22 pounds of marijuana in luggage at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Monday. It’s part of their continuous presence for interdiction operations.

At around 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 12, an Austin police officer and his narcotic detection K9 named Emma were conducting a routine inspection when the police dog signaled an alert.

“It varies [when we’re at the airport], we try to spread it around,” Sgt. Greg White from Austin Police Department’s Criminal Interdiction Unit says. “We try to maintain a presence out there.”

During their search, they found a suitcase piled on a luggage cart from an inbound flight from Sacramento and identified it as the property of Nicholas Marriott, 24.

The officer said in a police affidavit he could also smell marijuana emanating from the bag. Officers then let the bag continue on the conveyor belt to baggage claim and wait for the owner to get the marijuana-filled luggage.

They watched as a man, later identified as Marriott, took the bag and began walking towards the exit with another man, 38-year-old Kobie Howard.

When confronted, Marriott claimed he was coming from Dallas, despite his luggage tag saying Sacramento. When asked if there was any reason the K9 would signal a positive narcotics alert for his bag, he answered, “No.” Marriott declined to give officers consent to search his bag.

After a search warrant was obtained, the 22 pounds of marijuana were found in the bag.

“For marijuana, because it’s not profitable unless it’s in bulk, we usually don’t see like any type of concealment methods other than just packaging as much as they can in one bag,” Sgt. White said.

Police believe Marriott and Howard assisted each other in transporting the bag and knew of its contents. They were both charged with the third degree felony of possession of marijuana.

Officers believe this was the last stop for the large amount of drugs.

“We have a large college crowd here that the marijuana typically sees for the younger crowd,” Sgt. White said. “Mostly what we’ve seen here, this is usually the final stop, it’s bought in bulk here and then packages in smaller amounts and sold at street level.”

Bail has been set at $25,000 for Marriott and $50,000 for Howard.

In February, 35 pounds of marijuana was found in checked luggage at ABIA.

We wanted to know why TSA agents would not have found the drugs on the earlier legs of the flight. Officers say it’s typically local police departments or DEA agents that deal with narcotics.

“TSA is more concerned with the safety of the passenger with weapons and bombs and stuff like that, their X-ray machines aren’t really looking for the narcotics,” Sgt. White said.

Police estimate this year alone they have seized around 400 pounds of marijuana from ABIA.

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