ANNE ARUNDEL, Md. – A Maryland man says he lost two jobs and spent nearly three months in jail after Customs and Border Protection officers misidentified the honey he brought back from Jamaica as meth.
Leon Haughton told WJLA that when customs officers first stopped him at Baltimore Washington International Airport he thought it might have been because of a KFC meal he had in his suitcase.
It wasn't the chicken, however, but three bottles of honey that caught their attention.
"They said I was charged with methamphetamine, so I said 'What is meth?'" he told WJLA.
In a statement to the TV news station, a spokesperson for the CBP said:
“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. The confirmatory laboratory test showed there was no controlled, dangerous substance inside the honey."
Haughton said he was taken away from his suitcase in handcuffs and ultimately placed in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center on Dec. 30.
A negative lab test weeks later should have cleared him of suspicion, but confusion over Haughton's green card added to his nightmare, and reportedly kept him locked up for 82 days.
The Washington Post reported Haughton was placed on federal detention because of his arrest at an airport on felony drug charges, and that extended his incarceration. It took another two months for a federal lab to perform a second test and for authorities to drop all charges.
During his second bail review on Jan. 24, Anne Arundel County District Court Judge Laura M. Robinson said, "The problem is, I can't let him go to ICE, because he would be deported, potentially," according to a recording obtained by the paper. "Even if I released you, you still wouldn't necessarily be released. You would go into federal detention."
Haughton described his time locked up as "hell" that left him jobless, with his credit destroyed and family stressed out. He is now living in a motel, working on getting his life back.
"Even when they let me out, they didn't reach out to me and say sorry," Haughton said.