By Todd C. Frankel for The Washington Post. He practiced with baby carrots, swallowing them whole, easing them down his throat with yogurt. Later came the heroin pellets, each loaded with 14 grams of powder, machine-wrapped in wax paper and thick latex. Long gone were the days of swallowing hand-knotted, drug-filled condoms. The Mexican drug trafficking organizations were always perfecting their craft.

On this trip, Gerardo A. Vargas would swallow 71 pellets — a full kilo, just over two pounds, enough for as many as 30,000 hits at $10 a pop on American streets. And so before he set off on his 3,900-mile journey from Uruapan, Mexico, Vargas had been given the rules: No soda, because it could erode the pellets’ wrapping. No orange juice, either. Drink only water. He was told which airports to avoid, which places to go, his every move orchestrated by his handler in Mexico.

And don’t eat anything, he was told, until reaching the final destination: Dayton, Ohio, one of the new frontiers of the American heroin epidemic.

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