A Guatemalan woman with more than $31,000 in cash stuffed in her stomach was arrested at Panama
's international airport as she attempted to enter the country.
The unidentified 44-year-old woman exhibited "suspicious behavior" on Monday before entering the airport's X-ray machine, police told the French news agency Agence France Presse
So far, 39 bundles of cash totaling $31,200 have been extracted from the stomach of the suspected "mule," as authorities refer to low-level members of a criminal ring who transport contraband. Police said doctors at the Panama City hospital where she was confined believed there was more cash bundles to be discovered.
It wasn't clear where she departed from or how she got the wads of cash into her stomach.
Bulk cash smuggling is usually an indication of drug trafficking or credit card fraud
According to federal immigration authorities, criminals attempting to sidestep scrutiny from banks over electronic transfers try to find other ways to traffic cash to foreign countries to finance crime rings and conceal drug trafficking.
Last February, border authorities stopped a woman who was carrying $277,556 in cash concealed inside two oversized teddy bears and several throw pillows. The woman pleaded that she was unaware the items contained the cash and told authorities that the bears were gifts for a child.
Transporting more than $10,000 of undeclared cash across the United States border is illegal. All money seized from such nefarious operations is deposited into government forfeiture funds.
In the 2011 fiscal year, more than $150 million was seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, resulting in 428 arrests.
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