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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Man found dead in suitcase was drug mule

The suitcase that contained the body found at Tibbetts Brook Park.

The suitcase that contained the body found at Tibbetts Brook Park. (Department of Public Safety)

Shawn Cohen
The Journal News

HAWTHORNE - The man found dead in a suitcase in Tibbetts Brook Park last week was a drug mule from the Dominican Republic who died from an apparent overdose after two packets of heroin leaked into his body, police said yesterday.

Authorities found 50 packets of heroin, with a street value of at least $100,000, inside the man's body. They believe he was likely dumped in the park by fellow drug mules after his accidental overdose.

The man, who has yet to be identified, apparently died one or two days before his body was discovered by a park worker in a new suitcase around noon Thursday, Westchester County police Detective Lt. Christopher Calabrese said.

Police said that the man had probably flown to the United States on a paid mission to deliver drugs, concealing them inside his body. He died before he was able to excrete the heroin. Calabrese speculated that fellow mules bought the suitcase and dumped the body before the dealers came to collect the drugs, not wanting the dealers to cut open the corpse to get at the heroin.

"There could be three, four, five of these mules working together," Calabrese said, explaining how the drug transport system works. "They may be on the same plane, they may be on different planes, but they've usually got to meet up at some place because they've got to pass the drugs. They usually meet in a hotel or motel, or in an apartment nearby. They may be there for a day, maybe two, until they get the drugs to come out.

"I'm very surprised this guy's not been cut open," Calabrese said. "Either we're talking about someone who's new in the business, or he met up with the other people who were transporting, and the guy who was coming to get the drugs was not there yet because he would have cut him."

Police said the dead man was in his 50s and was wearing a striped T-shirt. While he had no identification in his pockets, he was carrying items that tied him to the Dominican Republic, Calabrese said. They determined he has no criminal record in the United States after entering his fingerprints in a national criminal database and finding no matches.

In trying to identify the man, police circulated fliers with his photograph and pictures of his shirt and the bag. The luggage had an ATC symbol on it, though police said the bag was a counterfeit that was likely hastily purchased in this region, Calabrese said. Officers so far have been unable to locate the store where it was sold.

County police have reached out to Dominican authorities to help identify the man. The body is being held by the Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office. The results of toxicology tests won't be completed for several weeks.

"Even though the guy's a drug dealer, he's probably got family," Calabrese said. "He could have a wife, he could have kids. So we'd like to get him identified and get him back to where he belongs."

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call county police at 1-800-898-TIPS.

Reach Shawn Cohen at or 914-694-5046.