150 pounds of drug 'khat' seized at PHL

Khat, a leafy shrub chewed for stimulant effects, is classified in the U.S. as a Schedule I narcotic.

Officers seized 150 pounds of khat last week at PHL.

  • The shrub has stimulant effects when chewed and is typically grown in the Arabian Peninsula.
  • The 150 pounds of khat has an estimated street value of $45,000.

Customs and Border Protection officers last week confiscated a total of 150 pounds of khat during six separate seizures near the Philadelphia International Airport. 

The leafy shrub, which has stimulant effects when chewed, is typically grown in the Arabian Peninsula. In the U.S., it’s classified as a schedule 1 narcotic, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Investigators said officers at an express courier facility near the airport on Feb. 27 became suspicious of a parcel destined for Cromwell, Conn. and marked “Adidas junior bags.”

The package was x-rayed and found to contain over 24 pounds of khat, officials said.

Two more packages of khat were recovered last Wednesday, according to authorities. One, bound for Skokie, Ill., was marked “document procedures” but contained over 22 pounds of the drug.

The second was destined for West Dundee, Ill. and labeled “reports,” officials said. That allegedly contained more than 15 pounds of khat.

Also seized Wednesday were 140 tablets of Solpadeine, a medication that’s sold over-the-counter in Europe but classified as a Schedule III drug in the U.S. because it contains codeine. The tablets were marked “samples” and destined for Rochester, Minn., according to investigators.

Officials said in a release that last Thursday “seemed like Groundhog Day,” as customs officers in Philadelphia made two more khat seizures.

The first, weighing in at over 23 pounds, was packaged as “mobile phone accessories” and bound for Minneapolis.

The second package, which contained more than 16 pounds of khat, was marked “project development group report” and on its way to Skokie, Ill., according to authorities.

Officers last Thursday also confiscated 16 vials of steroids in a package marked “non documents Amino Methyl Propanal” and destined for Everett, Mass.

Investigators said the largest seizure came Friday, when officers seized over 46 pounds of khat in a parcel marked “decorative artistic handcrafts” and destined for Riverwoods, Ill. 

In total, authorities said, the 150 pounds of khat has an estimated street value of $45,000.

The confiscations amounted to the second large seizure of the stuff in Philadelphia in recent memory. Customs officers in November recovered 112 pounds of khat packaged in three parcels and slated for delivery to Connecticut and Illinois.

“We know that U.S. consumers will attempt to purchase products they know to be illicit or illegal from overseas sources through the internet,” acting CBP Port Director for the Port of Philadelphia Tarance Drafts said in a statement. “Our best advice to them is caveat emptor, buyer beware.”

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or awigglesworth@philly.com. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.