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Cocaine Smuggling Arrest
4 Female Passengers Arrested

Freedom of the Seas Port Canaveral, Florida May 15, 2016

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Cocaine Smuggling Arrest
4 Female Passengers Arrested

Freedom of the Seas Port Canaveral, Florida May 15, 2016

Lakisha_Abney Ciera_Bryant Shawnta_Aiken Rita Gray

Rita Gray, 38, from Washington DC, a business manager with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) who has been placed on administrative leave, has turned out to be the ring leader of the Freedom of the Seas cocaine smuggling ring last mother's day. Gray admitted she bought plane and cruise tickets for the women, and gave them what she called “spending money.”

Gray said she flew to Florida, to wait for the four women, "Kisha" Abney, 32, Shawnta Aiken, 44, Ciera "Cici" Bryant, 26, and Shenique Nicole Milbourne to get off the cruise ship, but they never did. So, she flew back home.

On August 31, 2016 a federal indictment was issued charging her with being the mastermind of the smuggling ring. A warrant for her arrest was issued on December 7, 2016. Gray was arrested, pleaded guilty and is in federal prison in Florida awaiting sentencing.

The Case

LaKisha S "Kisha" Abney, 32, Shawnta Aiken, 44, Ciera "Cici" Bryant, 26, and Shenique Nicole Milbourne were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for smuggling cocaine aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Freedom of the Seas when it docked at Port Canaveral, Florida (Brevard County) on May 15, 2016 after returning from a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise. Freedom of the Seas sailed to Labadee, Haiti, Falmouth, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico.

Abney, Aiken, Bryant who are all from Washington, DC and Milbourne who is from Ft. Washington, Maryland embarked on the cruise Mother's Day, Sunday, May 8, 2016. The cruise was booked and paid for by somebody related to Abney, after Aiken, Bryant and Milbourne provided their personal information for the booking to Abney, according to the other three women. Lakisha Abney's sister drove the Bryant and Abney to the airport to begin their cruise.

Bryant was the first person off the cruise ship to be detained by ICE agents after she disembarked. During her post-cruise immigration check, she wasn't making eye contact with the ICE agent and her hands and voice were shaking. She was interviewed and the agent learned of the other three women she was cruising with, all who she said were wearing a muumuu.

Through the interviews of the women, it was learned that Lakisha Abney was the ring leader in control of the other three women. All four stayed in the same cruise ship cabin and all four went to a beach in Falmouth, Jamaica where they received the cocaine.

Once on the beach in Falmouth, a man driving a van arrived and Lakisha Abney gave the man a five inch stack of $20 bills. The man gave her a bag in return.
The bag contained four bras and girdles with cocaine pouches hidden inside which totaled 6.668 kilograms or a little over 14.5 pounds of cocaine.

Abney smuggled 1532 grams of cocaine on her body, Bryant had 1439 kilograms, Aiken had 1556 grams and Milbourne had 2249 grams. For their part in the smuggling operation Milbourne received $700, Aiken received $800 and Bryant received $2000.

Shawnta Aiken is a hair stylist in Washington DC with two children, a 5-year-old girl and a boy 26.

Shenique Nicole Milbourne has three arrests for prostitution in Prince George's county Maryland on November 30, 2010, September 23, 2011 and May 29, 2012.

On April 24, 2016, crew members from Freedom of the Seas were arrested smuggling cocaine, in a nearly identical scenario.

More cruise ship drug arrests can be found on our Cruise Ship Drugs website.

Supporting Information & Resources:
  • U.S. v LaKisha Abney, Shawnta Aiken, Ciera Bryant,Shenique_Milbourne
  • U.S. v Rita Gray Indictment
  • U.S. v Rita Gray

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