PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a drug-smuggling scandal straight out of a movie.
Federal agents say they’ve uncovered a scheme in which meth was hidden in the frames of religious artwork and shipped to Pittsburgh from Mexico, according to an affidavit filed in court.
Carmelo Rojas-Perez is charged with smuggling.
He lived in an apartment in Oakland, but according to court papers, he’s a Mexican citizen who came here illegally in 1993. The man who owns the store below Rojas-Perez’s apartment says he came into the store regularly, but the owner says he had no idea what was allegedly going on.
Custom agents at the FedEx hub in Memphis caught on to the hidden drugs.
According to the affidavit, Rojas-Perez was brought to the office of Homeland Security where he allowed agents to look at his cell phone. They said they found text conversations he had with someone named “Angel.”
ANGEL: Mr. Carmelo, the order arrive?
ROJAS-PEREZ: Yes sir, it’s already here.
ANGEL: Check it good. They didn’t take the nails out. It arrived whole.
ROJAS-PEREZ: Well it’s good, protected, covered with cardboard… In a while I’ll call you to settle everything.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office says one of the paintings depicted the Virgin Mary with three children around her.
The frames were allegedly hollowed out and packets of meth were placed inside.
A kilogram of meth was reportedly found and three paintings in all were confiscated.