Feds Intercept Pot Shipments To Publishing House

Five kilos were bound for St. Martin's Press in NYC

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St. Martin's Press Pot

MARCH 21--Two shipments of marijuana destined for the New York City offices of a major book publisher were intercepted this month by federal agents after postal workers detected a “suspicious odor” emanating from the Express Mail parcels, according to court records.

The packages, containing a total of more than 11 pounds of pot, were bound for St. Martin’s Press, which is headquatered in the landmark Flatiron Building on lower Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

The pot parcels, mailed from San Diego, never made it out of California, however. A post office employee contacted postal inspectors after alerting to the distinctive scent of the two packages. According to mailing labels, the boxes were purportedly sent by “ABT Books,” a San Diego firm that listed a return address that investigators determined to be fictitious.

After a drug detection dog alerted to the presence of a controlled substance inside the packages, agents last week secured search warrants to open the boxes. Inside, the marijuana was found under layers of plastic wrap, according to inventory records. The sender had packed the Express Mail parcels with paper towels, Styrofoam chunks, and dryer sheets (which are often used by traffickers in an effort to mask pot odor).

Both packages were addressed to “Karen Wright,” which appears to be a fictitious name. A company phone operator said that nobody by that name works at the company, which is one of the country’s largest publishers (and a division of the Macmillan conglomerate). St. Martin’s roster of authors includes Robert Ludlum, Augusten Burroughs, and Frederick Forsyth.

Apart from seizing the marijuana--which, depending on its quality, could have had a street value approaching $70,000--federal agents do not appear to be seeking to determine whom at St. Martin’s was expecting to receive the pot. While not attempted, a “controlled delivery” of the parcels could have identified “Karen Wright,” who was clearly intending to traffick the marijuana (and not smoke all five kilos). (5 pages)