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Philadelphia CBP Waxes Dangerous Drugs Destined to North Miami Beach

PHILADELPHIA – Good candles are supposed to be non-toxic. The candles that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Philadelphia seized January 12 were quite the opposite.

CBP officers discovered ketamine concealed in candles destined to North Miami Beach.

CBP officers discovered ketamine hydrochloride, a Schedule III non-narcotic compound regulated under the Controlled Substances Act, concealed inside 18 homemade candles being shipped from Austria to an address in North Miami Beach, Fla.

According to the DEA, ketamine, commonly known on the street as Special K, distorts perceptions, it causes amnesia, temporary paralysis, and dangerously slows breathing, and potentially shuts down body systems leading to cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. Along with other club drugs, ketamine is popular among teens and young adults at dance clubs and raves. It delivers hallucinogenic effects and is sometimes used to facilitate sexual assault crimes.

CBP officers detected multiple anomalies after officers x-rayed a parcel manifested as “homemade candles.” Officers then examined the candles and discovered a white powdery substance concealed within the candles.

CBP officers extracted and tested samples of the substance using a handheld elemental isotope analysis tool, which identified the substance as ketamine hydrochloride.

Ketamine is a white powdery substance used as a club drug, but it has also been used to facilitate sexual assault crimes.

CBP officers kept the candles and ketamine intact and turned the ketamine over to special agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) who continue to investigate.

The drug-stuffed candles weighed a combined 22 kilograms, or more than 48 pounds.

“Customs and Border Protection officers are highly skilled at detecting creative drug smuggling concealment methods, such as the ketamine we found in these homemade candles,” said Joseph Martella, Area Port Director for CBP’s Area Port of Philadelphia. “We want to assure the public that CBP remains committed to extinguishing future smuggling attempts and helping to keep our communities safe from the scourge of dangerous drugs.”

CBP officers and agents seized an average of 4,732 pounds of dangerous drugs every day at our nation’s air, land and sea ports of entry. See what else CBP accomplished during "A Typical Day" in 2021.

CBP's border security mission is led at our nation’s Ports of Entry by CBP officers and agriculture specialists from the Office of Field Operations. CBP screens international travelers and cargo and searches for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, invasive weeds and pests, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.

Learn more at

Follow the Director of CBP’s Baltimore Field Office on Twitter at @DFOBaltimore for breaking news, current events, human interest stories and photos, and CBP’s Office of Field Operations on Instagram at @cbpfieldops.