By Kyle Meenan
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- They came from all across the land to spend four days at sea on a ship with non-stop bands, music and dancing.
But a dozen passengers scheduled to set sail on "Jam Cruise 3" never made it on-board the Carnival Cruise Ship. They were arrested after trying to pass through U.S. Customs with illegal drugs.
The scenario was the same, over and over. As more than 1,200 passengers passed through the Jaxport terminal, they stopped for a photo, then proceeded on to Customs for a pre-boarding inspection.
Over a span of six hours, a dozen of those passengers were 'outed' by a proficient U.S. Customs and Border Protection drug dog named Megan.
As word filtered back through the line, many passengers dumped their stash in the terminals trash cans and toilets. One passenger even abandoned drug-laced brownies. They all presumably made it aboard.
According to police reports from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, which worked side-by side with Customs Officials, the following passengers never left the dock, except to be booked downtown:
- 30-year-old John Peter Schneider, (Felony) of Fairfax, Virginia, was said to have bolted out the door towards the ship when the drug dog signalled he was suspect. Officers report Schneider tried stuffing two small baggies into his mouth as he was tackled near the ship. Police prevented him from swallowing, and say the baggies contained four grams of coke.
- 37-year-old Jonathan Mayer Lipschutz, (Felony) of San Francisco, an audiologist, was arrested for carrying a baggie of pot in his waistband, and cocaine in his pocket. Several "unknown" pills were also found in a prescription bottle.
- 40-year-old Christopher Kew Wong,(Felony) a telecommunications salesman from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was found to have 12 small baggies of heroin and four grams of marijuana, which he told arresting officers was "for personal use."
- 23-year-old David Ognibene,(Felony) of Boulder, Colorado, was found to be hiding 26-grams of pot in his crotch.
- 35-year-old Steven M. Beatty,(Misdemeanor) of Portland Oregon, was arrested for hiding a little more than ten grams of pot and a glass pipe in his crotch.
- 41-year-old Joseph Francis Grasso, (Misdemeanor) a self-employed manager from St. Louis, Missouri, was arrested for posession of marijuana. Police say he was hiding 19-grams of pot in his crotch.
- 38-year-old Dr. Matthew D. Pate,(Felony) a Kokomo, Indiana dentist, was found with 18 hits of ecstacy and a small quantity of marijuana.
- 28-year-old Kaleb E. Simpson, (Misdemeanor) a landscaper from Manassas, Virginia, was charged with posession of cannabis, for the 11-grams of pot hidden in his crotch.
- 35-year-old Paul Abrahan Levine, (Felony) a restaurateur from Quincy, Florida, told inspectors he had "a little coke and a little x." Police say he had 13-grams of ecstacy powder and 8-grams of coke in his crotch.
- 26-year-old Bethany Lynn Valachovic, (Misdemeanor), and accountant from Fayetville, Arkansas, was arrested for concealing two grams of pot and a pipe in her pants.
- 29-year-old Matthew Lansing Swift, (Misdemeanor), a Chicago engineer, was charged with posession for 5.8-grams of marijuana hidden in his crotch.
"Jam Cruise 3" officials did not return a call from First Coast News Sunday afternoon. It's presumed they are on the open ocean. A check of the company's website mentions several times to potential clients that they "NOT bring narcotics" on board.
Local U.S. Customs officials say the chat rooms of the "Jam Cruise" website had contributors offering suggestions of how passengers could safely sneak their stash aboard ship.
"We've read a lot of the chat room discussions that vacuum-sealing narcotics is a method of concealing narcotics in such a way to avoid the detection by the dog," said Richard Quinn of the Jacksonville office.
Quinn was quick to point out, the advice was bogus.
"Of 11 arrests, twelve seizures taken off individuals, the dog alerted to all 12, so the dog was quite effective," said Quinn.
One JSO officer involved in the searches who wished to remain anonymous put it in perspective whan asked about the relevance of these drug arrests to plans for the upcoming cruise ships and Super Bowl XXXIX:
"Come for the game and have a great party, but leave your stash at home!"
First Coast News