Elder Law

Feds announce 'Operation Cocoon,' hoping to curtail use of unwitting seniors as drug mules

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Those seeking to protect individuals who are elderly and vulnerable have a new issue to worry about—the possibility that they will be tricked into serving as international drug couriers.

Increasingly, unwitting seniors are being targeted by people who have gained their trust to carry drugs, disguised as something else, to meetings in other countries. Typical ploys revolve around a claimed inheritance or business transaction, according to ABC News and the New York Times (reg. req.).

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday announced “Operation Cocoon,” a joint investigation of the problem by American and foreign law enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, although some seniors have been intercepted before they could get off the ground, 83 U.S. citizens have been arrested abroad as a result of such schemes since 2013, the feds say.

Among those arrested is J. Bryon Martin, 77, a retired minister from Maine who is serving a six-year prison term after agreeing to a request by an online “friend” to bring purported real estate documents from South America to London, the Times reports. He was stopped during a layover in Madrid by authorities who were suspicious of the packages Martin was carrying and opened them.

“Before this conviction, my dad had never been charged with even a misdemeanor,” his son, Andrew Martin, told the newspaper.

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