Brit brought 44½ pounds of ketamine on flight to O’Hare, feds say (He thought it was pot)

(U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

CHICAGO — Federal officials say a British man was caught with more than 44 pounds of ketamine in his luggage during a customs inspection at O’Hare International Airport over the weekend.

Christopher Andrew Harvey entered customs with a small roller bag and a backpack after arriving on a flight from Brussels on Saturday, according to a complaint filed by a Homeland Security Investigations agent. Screeners flagged Harvey for additional screening because he had “trouble answering simple questions regarding his trip,” the complaint said.

Under closer inspection, customs officers found a baggage claim tag in Harvey’s carry-on, but he had previously denied having any checked bags, according to the complaint. Customs officials retrieved the associated suitcase from baggage claim and found a black bag inside containing 20.18 kilograms of ketamine, the complaints said. That’s just shy of 44-1/2 pounds.

Harvey finally admitted that the bag was his but said he thought it contained marijuana, not ketamine, according to the complaint. He allegedly told investigators that he was recruited to bring the bag into the United States by someone who promised to pay him £5,000, or about $6,224.

According to the complaint, the man who recruited Harvey flew him from the U.K. to Brussels and put him up in a hotel for a night. In Brussels, Harvey met with someone who gave him the suitcase and cash for a plane ticket, instructing him to fly to Chicago and then to Las Vegas. According to the complaint, the plan was for someone to meet Harvey in Las Vegas and drive him to Los Angeles to deliver the luggage. But he didn’t make it that far.

He is charged with unlawful importation of a controlled substance.

Last month, the owner of a long-running River North nightclub was arrested at O’Hare after he allegedly brought 14 pounds of ketamine on a flight from London. Dino Gardiakos, 43, owner of Spybar, had been on “second chance probation” since pleading guilty to a previous drug charge last June.

The Cook County sheriff’s office said Garidakos admitted that he bought six kilograms of ketamine in London, and the seller told him how to hide the drugs so they would pass through a customs inspection at O’Hare. He allegedly told investigators that the 14 pounds of drugs were for personal use and for sale.

The case Gardiakos is on probation for stems from a raid on his West Town home by sheriff’s deputies and federal agents in May 2021.

At the time, prosecutors said federal customs agents intercepted a suspicious package from the United Kingdom addressed to Gardiakos and found more than two pounds of ketamine inside. The agents resealed the box and arranged for undercover agents to deliver it to Gardiakos’ home.

Shortly after delivery, agents received an alert that someone had opened the box, and they immediately executed an anticipatory search warrant on Gardiakos’ home that a judge had approved earlier, officials said in 2021.

Prosecutors claimed the search of Gardiakos’ home turned up $240,000 worth of drugs, including more than 11 pounds of cannabis, nearly 9 pounds of THC concentrate, one pound of Psilocybe mushrooms, and another quarter-pound of ketamine. Agents and deputies also recovered $25,000 in cash, narcotics packaging materials, a scale, ledgers, and other materials related to narcotics distribution in the home, prosecutors alleged.

Ultimately, though, Gardiakos pleaded guilty only to one count of possessing a controlled substance last June. The state dropped four felony charges that alleged manufacture-delivery and an additional possession charge.

Judge Timothy Joyce sentenced Gardiakos to two years of second-chance probation and ordered him to perform 30 hours of community service.

According to court records, just three months later, Gardiakos’ attorney asked Judge Jennifer Coleman to terminate the club owner’s probation early. She rejected that idea.

If Gardiakos completes the probation term successfully, the 2021 case could be expunged.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com