​FROM: Karyn Sinunu, Assistant District Attorney

Contact Person:
Sam Giammona, Deputy District Attorney
Major Narcotic Vendor Prosecution Program
(408) 792-2775   For Immediate Release on June 6, 2002.     Bulgarian Opium Smuggled in Wall Plaques Depicting Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus   On May 30, 2001, Agents from the San Jose Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested Azar Lahidji, age 52, for possession for sale and transportation of approximately four pounds of opium, concealed inside hollow wall plaques depicting images of the Madonna and Child.   On June 5, 2002, Lahidji entered a plea of no contest to one count of possession for sale of opium. She will receive two years in state prison on June 28, 2002 when she returns to court for sentencing. Lahidji was released from custody after posting bail in the amount $1,000,000. She will be remanded into custody on June 6, 2002.   The investigation began on May 29, 2001, when U.S. Customs Agents in New York City intercepted a package at JFK airport that had been mailed from Bulgaria. An inspection of the packages revealed that the two Christian icons had been hollowed out and filled with opium. The package was then sent, intact, to U.S. Customs in San Jose, where local D.E.A. officials took over the investigation.   On May 30, 2001, the package was then delivered by D.E.A. Agents to its intended address of 2059 Camden Avenue, San Jose, a MailBoxes Etc store. The name on the package was "A. Lahidji." An Agent, posing as a store employee, made telephone contact with Lahidji, informing her that the package was ready for pickup. Agents later observed Azar Lahidji arrive and enter the store. She retrieved an envelope from her mailbox, which was later discovered to be an empty envelope, and returned to her car. A minute or so later, she returned to the store and asked for her oversized package. At this time, a DEA agent posing as a store employee, delivered the package to her. She walked to her car and put the package inside. She then drove in a large circle through city streets, employing counter surveillance driving techniques, and was eventually arrested by federal agents when she got out of her car to use a pay phone.   ###

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