US charges five with hiding meth in 1,300 pounds of wax candles

NEW YORK, Aug 30 (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors in New York said they have uncovered a new means to conceal methamphetamine, announcing criminal charges on Wednesday against five people they say conspired to hide the drug in more than 1,300 pounds of wax candles.

New York City police and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents found 27 cardboard boxes containing the candles in a New Jersey warehouse through a sting involving an undercover officer posing as a buyer, prosecutors said.

The officer discussed with the defendants how the warehouse would be used for four days ending on Sept. 2 to convert the candles into crystal meth, prosecutors said.

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Marijuana found in the trunks of new Ford Fusion cars in Ohio in this undated photo obtained by REUTERS July 18, 2017. Drug Enforcement Administration Detroit /Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Marijuana found in the trunks of new Ford Fusion cars in Ohio in this undated photo obtained by REUTERS July 18, 2017. Drug Enforcement Administration Detroit /Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
An undated handout picture released by the New York Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office show 62 kilograms of cocaine (136 lbs.) seized by police in New York City December 17, 2015. Two men were arrested and nearly $3 million worth of cocaine was seized in New York City in what is being described as the biggest bust involving the drug in recent years as heroin abuse has surged, law enforcement authorities said on Saturday. REUTERS/New York Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Police show crystal methamphetamine packaged as boxes of chocolate to journalists following a drug trafficking operation which netted 202 billion rupiah (approx $15.4 million USD) worth of various narcotics at police headquarters, Jakarta, Indonesia, April 13, 2016 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. REUTERS/Wahyu Putro/Antara Foto ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS MANDATORY CREDIT. INDONESIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN INDONESIA.
Mona, a Colombian drug-sniffer dog, stands guard next to packs of cocaine at the police building during a photo opportunity to the media in Bogota, Colombia September 7, 2015. Police in Colombia and Mexico have seized more than two tonnes of cocaine after a drug-sniffing dog alerted authorities in Bogota to the narcotics, which had been dyed black and falsely registered as an ingredient in printer cartridges, the Colombian police said on Monday. REUTERS/ John Vizcaino
An indoor marijuana farm, also known as a "grow house", is seen in an empty swimming pool, concealed by a thick slab of concrete, in this undated handout photo provided by Miami-Dade County Police Department in Miami, Florida on January 31, 2014. Police arrested and charged three individuals, after a routine traffic stop found them to be in possession of five pounds of marijuana, with a further 82 live plants discovered in the empty pool in the backyard of a house. In 2012, Florida had more marijuana "grow houses" than anywhere else in the country, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). REUTERS/Miami-Dade Police Dept/Handout via Reuters (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW DRUGS SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS ? THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
A carton box filled with wood briquettes and cocaine is pictured during a news conference at the police headquarters in Hamburg April 13, 2010. About 1,3 tonnes of cocaine with a market value around 40 million euro was seized and 7 suspects arrested during an operation at the Hamburg harbour. It was the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in Germany, according to the authorities. REUTERS/Christian Charisius (GERMANY - Tags: CRIME LAW)
A Colombian soldier displays marijuana packs confiscated by army troops in Florida Valle del Cauca province November 19, 2009. At least 4.5 tons of marijuana were seized near Toribio during an operation by army troops, authorities said. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga (COLOMBIA MILITARY CONFLICT SOCIETY)
- PHOTO TAKEN 26DEC02 - A forensic police officer inspects one of seven plastic tubes filled with ecstasy tablets at the Australian Federal Police headquarters in Sydney on December 26, 2002. Australian police made their largest seizure of the party drug ecstasy on Cristmas Eve after finding three quarters of a million tablets worth A$45 million ($25 million) in the back of a van during a raid in Sydney, police said on Friday. Three men, including a Canadian, were arrested. Picture taken December 26. ? EDITORIAL USE ONLY (Credit : New South Wales Police Service)
Over 28,000 pounds (12.7 tons) of cocaine seized by U.S forces in 18 separate interdictions is shown on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell upon its return to Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California October 6, 2014. The drugs, seized off the coast of Central America with the help of the U.S. Navy, were turned over to agents from the DEA. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW MILITARY POLITICS DRUGS SOCIETY)
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A field test of one candle revealed a "detectable amount" of methamphetamine, an illegal stimulant, they added.

"DEA has seen drugs smuggled in numerous ways: concealed in puppies, lollipops, furniture, and produce," James Hunt, special agent-in-charge of the DEA's New York field office, said in a statement. "But secreting a million dollars' worth of methamphetamine in wax candles of various shapes is shocking."

The defendants Agustin Zamora-Vega, 30; Orlando Alcantara, 33; Cindy Carrillo, 27; Santos Minjarez, 26, and Jose Luis Gonzalez-Solis, 28, were each arrested overnight in New Jersey and charged with one drug conspiracy count, carrying a mandatory 10-year minimum prison term, prosecutors said.

Lawyers for the defendants could not immediately be identified.

Methamphetamine abuse has been linked to health problems including heart failure, irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure.

A recent study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry linked methamphetamine use to a possible higher risk of strokes in young adults.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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