On February 10, 2016 the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (‘ICE’) announced in a policy document that appears to coincide with ranking ICE officials testimony before the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging that it recently launched ‘Operation Cocoon‘ to help curtail the use of “elderly citizens” unknowingly acting as drug couriers, or drug mules as couriers are sometimes referred to as, from foreign countries to the United States or to other foreign countries. While not part of the policy document released, typical of the victims of such scams is J. Byron Martin a 77 year old retired minister from Maine, who thought he was helping a fellow soul by transporting what he believed to be books from Peru to London via Spain.
It turned out that the books in issue had drugs secreted away in them. Mr. Martin’s son, Andy Martin of Henderson, Nevada testified that his father was never arrested in his 70 plus years on this planet prior to this episode. Mr. Martin is now serving a seven year sentence of incarceration in Spain. Senator Susan Collins presided over the hearing and indicated that the ensnared seniors are duped into transporting the drugs, those with the requisite criminal intent secret the drugs away in “chocolates, picture frames, tea, markers, canned goods, shampoo bootles, soap and wooden hangers.” The hearings were an effort to get the word out about this very serious danger. Both the Senate Committee on Aging and ICE operate a toll free number to report suspected scams. That number for ICE is (866) DHS-2-ICE; (866) 347-2423. The phone number for the Senate Committee on aging is (855) 303-9470.