Airport security cracks down on illegal imports, exports


They come from every corner of the world to Bush Intercontinental Airport's international terminal. And for many passengers, the long trip means lots of luggage. But what may seem like a regular bag sometimes holds a shocking and illegal secret.

"When I started this job, I never thought I'd see some of the things I've seen," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspector Bead Wendt said.

Things brought or smuggled into the country by passengers who don't have the proper permits. That's where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service comes in.

"To try and help the United States protect its wildlife," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspector Demarion McKinney said.

Inspectors and agents, along with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers, are constantly checking, searching and scanning baggage.

"We are most concerned with the endangered species, the most threatened species globally," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspector Agent Hampton said.

And often, they find and seize it before it ends up on the black market.

But not even that could prepare us for what we were about to see. Several shelves of some of the most bizarre things, including a llama fetus, have been seized at the airport.

The llama fetus was found wrapped in a plastic bag and stuffed in a passenger's purse.

"A newlywed couple brought that in and they were going to bury it under their front door for good luck. It wasn't lucky for the llama," Customs Chief Jerry Akin said.

And Akin had another surprise for us.

"It's packed with camel dung, feces," Akin said.

It doesn't matter how it's disguised, feces can carry disease, and the Department of Agriculture tells us, it could affect our livestock.

"We are serious about protecting the U.S. and its resources," McKinney said.

So when the plane lands, the hunt is on, and for those caught smuggling, Houston Intercontinental Airport may not be their final destination.

"If it's smuggling, then we are going to investigate it fully and thoroughly," Hampton said. "Absolutely, we will seek prison sentences."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires passengers to declare all imported and exported items and in some cases present a permit as well.

Those caught smuggling for the illegal commercial trade could face numerous felony charges and up to 10 years in prison.

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