Leon Houghton, a resident of Bowie, Maryland, spent nearly three months in jail after airport customs officials mistook his bottles of honey from Jamaica for liquid meth.
“A man says he was locked up for months after customs officials at a Maryland airport accused him of smuggling meth in his suitcase — but that ‘meth’ was actually honey,” reports NBC Washington. “Leon Houghton said he traveled through Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Airport in December after a trip to Jamaica. He came back with jars of honey. Houghton says he was excited to drink the honey in his tea. But he never got that chance.”
A spokesperson for the Anne Arundel State’s Attorneys Office told reporters that the arrest came when a trained drug-sniffing dog alerted police to a “dangerous substance” in Houghton’s luggage, which apparently tested positive for methamphetamine.
“A specially trained drug-sniffing dog was alerted to the presence of a controlled dangerous substance, and a preliminary test done by the police officers further tested positive for a controlled dangerous substance,” said the spokesperson. “The confirmatory laboratory test showed there was no controlled dangerous substance inside the honey.”
Haughton was then taken into police custody on felony drug charges as he protested his innocence.
“I’m a hundred percent sure I don’t have no drugs. I have honey. So they take me to jail and lock me up. I spent, like, three months in jail,” Houghton told NBC. “They cannot give me no bond because it’s too much drugs and it came through the airport. I’m trying to tell them I don’t have no drugs. I have honey.”
The Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office said the bottles had to be shipped to a lab in Georgia since the Maryland crime lab did not have the available equipment to test liquids. For that, Houghton languished in jail for 82 days. Since Houghton is not U.S. citizen, the arrest put him at risk of being deported – not to mention the stress his family endured as they waited for his release.
Eventually, the charges were dropped, though officials have yet to apologize to Houghton for leaving his life in ruins. He has since lost his job as a cleaner and watched his credit score dramatically decrease due to the bills that piled up. Friends have even cut off contact.
“My kids are stressed out, my mom. Everybody was stressed out over everything. It’s a lot of stuff I’m going through,” he said. “Nobody contacted me. Nobody tell me sorry, nobody do nothing.”
Customs and Border Protection officials simply told NBC Washington that they are “reviewing procedures” while providing no information. Houghton still has not been issued an apology despite his story prompting massive outrage on social media.
“I hope his compensation is enough that he doesn’t have to work again. This ruined his life and his reputation. Three months for an official test is outrageous,” said one Twitter user.
“He lost his 2 jobs. There’s No compensation for losing his jobs, jailed for 82 days … for NOTHING. The 3 bottles were indeed HONEY never Liquid Meth. The man got his credit messed up. It Never takes 82 freaking days to get Honey tested. The miscarriage of Justice against POC,” said another user.
“When this happens the government should be forced to fix everything; his job, his credit and anything they messed up!!! Plus … compensate him up to 1 million dollars for the days of his freedom lost! And fire all employees involved!” said another.