Maynard H. Gilbert's plastics processing abilities lend a whole new meaning to the term ``insert molding.''
Gilbert, 49, of Blue Springs, Mo., pleaded guilty last month to smuggling cocaine from Bolivia by molding it into various plastic items such as briefcases and hard-sided luggage, bathtubs, hot tubs and shower stalls. Special labs set up in Kansas City, Mo., France and Germany then retrieved the cocaine.
Chris Whitley, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas City, refused to comment on the method used to process or retrieve the molded-in cocaine.
``We don't want to become a how-to source,'' he said.
Gilbert was charged with conspiracy and also was accused of organizing the drug ring, according to information from the U.S. Attorney's office.
``This was absolutely part of a major international drug smuggling operation directed from right here in America's heartland,'' Whitley said.
The items containing the cocaine were molded in Bolivia. The Bolivian molders reportedly claimed they could make anything containing cocaine, including a bathtub, at the request of an undercover FBI agent. Whitley said the bathtubs seized for evidence contained 20 pounds of cocaine bonded between layers of plastic and fiberglass, and had a street value of about $250,000.
Gilbert was arrested in Germany in 1992 for accepting a briefcase with molded-in cocaine. He remained in a German prison until April, when he was extradited to the United States. He is scheduled to be sentenced sometime early next year.
Originally, 14 people were indicted more than three years ago. Gilbert is the 11th to be convicted and could face up to 171/2 years in prison. Three of those indicted went to trial and were convicted by a jury. Eight, including Gilbert, pleaded guilty. Three are still at large, Whitley said.