December 7, 2023

4 women charged with using cruise ship to smuggle cocaine

cruise_1466899097068_3426489_ver1.0By Chris Bonanno, Florida Today , WTSP 10 News CBS

Four women have been charged with conspiracy to import cocaine on a cruise ship that docked in Port Canaveral, Fla. in May, according to a criminal complaint from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Authorities said Lakisha Abney, Shawnta Aiken and Ciera Bryant of Washington, D.C., and Shenique Milbourne of Fort Washington, Md., were charged with trying to smuggle more than six kilos of cocaine underneath loose-fitting muumuus “on or about May 8, 2016, and continuing until on or about May 15, 2016.”

Police said the four traveled aboard a sailing of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas that departed from Port Canaveral on May 8 and included stops in Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Mexico.

When they returned on May 15, police said Bryant was asked if she was traveling alone. She replied that she was traveling with friends but that she wasn’t sure where they were.

She was wearing a loose-fitting dress and said her friends were similarly dressed.

Additionally, officials noted Bryant’s hands were shaking, her voice wavered and she avoided eye contact with agents.

Following that, she was patted down and an officer discovered five, clear vacuum-sealed packages concealed under undergarments. The packages contained a white powdery substance that field-tested positively for the presence of cocaine. A pat-down of the other three suspects also revealed similar packages.

In all, police found more than 6.6 kilograms of drugs on the women.

In an interview following their arrests, Milbourne said she was given an opportunity by a man to go on a free cruise, which she accepted. She also stated she did not know Abney or Bryant, though they all stayed in the same cabin on the trip.

While in Jamaica, the women went to the beach and met a man in a van. She says that one of the women gave the man a large stack of money and the man gave them a bag, which Milbourne stated contained “the bra and underwear with all that stuff (cocaine) in it.”

Bryant stated in a post-Miranda interview that Abney offered her $2,000 to go on the cruise and bring back a “small gift” and she thought that the “small gift” would be a small quantity of drugs.

Unveiled in 2006, Freedom of the Seas was the world’s largest cruise ship until the late 2009 debut of Royal Caribbean’s 225,282-ton Oasis of the Seas, and it remains one of the biggest mega-resorts at sea. Only nine other cruise vessels are bigger.

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