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Colombian Pigeon Busted in Prison Smuggling of Marijuana Cocaine

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

As it turns out, loitering is suspicious behavior indeed—even if you’re a bird. A pigeon, posing as a drug mule, has been busted for attempting to smuggle about 40 grams of marijuana and another 5 grams of cocaine into a Colombian prison.

The pigeon didn’t make it over prison walls. While mules can handle a lot of weight, marijuana and cocaine proved just too much for the bird. The trained carrier pigeon was found about a block from the prison, unable to gain enough strength for the final part of its journey. Appearing suspicious, prison officials investigated the bird closer: the closer look revealed bags strapped to the pigeon's back and loaded with drugs.

At least one prisoner didn’t have a proper grasp on the concept of gravity -- the total weight in drugs equaled about one-seventh of an average pigeon’s body weight. With a combined weight of 45 grams, the drugs that were strapped to the carrier pigeon’s back prevented the bird from completing its mission to the Colombian prison. Birds had been caught at the same prison previously, transporting SIM cards for cellular phones -- but those SIM cards were a lot lighter.

This isn’t the first incidence of carrier pigeon use, specifically for drug smuggling: in late summer of 2008, prisoners at a high-security Bosnian jail were found to be using a carrier pigeon to smuggle in drugs to the high-security facility. At the Bosnian jail, four convicts tested positive for drugs, so officials were tipped off that convicts – who actively cared for a pigeon-house in the jail’s courtyard – might be training the birds to carry and transport drugs. An investigation led law enforcement to a bird, trained outside of the prison, as the smuggler of heroin and cocaine. Prisoners were using at least one pigeon to smuggle the drugs, using bags tied to the pigeon’s tiny legs in order to transport the heroin and coke.

Some dub the fairly unpopular birds as “rats with wings,” but the carrier pigeon is actually an ideal “drug mule” -- when not overloaded. A champion racing pigeon can be released 400-600 miles yet still return home on the same day. Oxford University, over a ten-year study, claims that pigeons can actually utilize roads and freeways to navigate – even changing directions at freeway junctions. Others claims that the birds use visual landmarks as guides, or that pigeons navigate through use of the earth’s magnetic field. Pigeons are thought to be one of the most intelligent birds in existence.

Pigeons are believed to have been utilized in the earliest, large-scale communication network established in Syria and Persia in roughly the 5th Century BC. By the 12th Century AD, Baghdad and all the main towns and cities of Syria and Egypt are thought to have been linked by messages carried by pigeons – the sole source of communication during that time. Both the British and French governments awarded honors to pigeons, the carriers used as messengers during wartime. The final “‘pigeon post” service was ceased in India, as late as 2004, with the idea that the birds should be retired in order to live out the rest of their lives in peace.

United States prisoners apparently have a different idea than the nation of India: for pigeons, it seems there’s no rest for the weary. Before the “pigeon as ‘drug mule’” escapade, the birds were being used to transport SIM cards for cell phones. Mobile phones have proved vital to long-term prisoners or inmates. Cell phone use by criminals has now become one of the biggest problems within the prison system, both in the U.S. and internationally. Prisoners, and even death row inmates, actively use mobile devices or phones from behind bars and actively depend on cellular devices. Prison inmates use mobile phones to run gangs from within prison walls, to call friends, to intimidate witnesses and to even threaten senators and family members of government officials.

The greatest irony of the active cell phone use, from within prison walls, is that the United States actually has a way to stop the problem. Technology companies have full capability to jam the signal of phones being used illegally by prison inmates – the problem, however, is that jamming that cell signal can’t be done in accordance with U.S. law. A law, dating back to the 1930’s, pertaining to set-up of U.S. telecommunications, means jamming the signal used by inmates is illegal.

Wired Magazine brought the extent of the mobile phone use in prisons to the forefront, when the magazine discussed how Senator John Whitmire and family members had been verbally threatened by an inmate of the Polunsky Unit in Texas. Death row inmate Richard Tabler actually called Whitmire, to personally convey a message: "I know your daughters' names," death row inmate Richard Tabler is accused of telling the senator. "I know how old they are. I know where they live."

The death row prisoner is sitting on Texas’ death row after murdering at least two people, possibly four. Tabler wound up at Texas’ Polunsky Unit after being accused of resolving a disagreement with the manager of a strip club and his friend through murder. Tabler allegedly shot and killed both strip club employees – a crime to which Tabler openly admits -- and the criminal is also suspected of additionally killing two teenage pole dancers who were murdered just days later.

Cell phones within prisons are big business. In the UK, a former prison guard was recently busted after he was discovered to be smuggling mobile phone SIM cards into a UK prison in Liverpool. Deemed "a disgrace to the uniform,” the European prison guard was sentenced to more than a year in prison himself, the judge calling prison guard James Taylor no better than the prisoners he was charged with guarding.

The former guard had served in the military, in Iraq, as part of the Territorial Army. While cracking down on the flow of cellular phones and related SIM cards steadily imported into the prison system, Taylor’s involvement in SIM card smuggling was uncovered by police. A bundle of SIM cards wrapped in plastic wrap, along with four empty SIM card holders, was found at the prison guard’s house. Further investigation revealed that the empty SIM card holders were linked to SIM cards that had already found their way into the prison where Taylor worked. Police who searched Taylor’s house also found drugs including crack cocaine, cocaine, marijuana, and stereoids in the form of tablets.


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