Former America's Got Talent dancer, 28, caught with more than £1M of Cannabis at Manchester Airport

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Former America's Got Talent dancer

A former America's Got Talent star has been jailed after being caught with more than 30kg of cannabis at Manchester Airport.

Elijah Flores, who danced on the US version of the popular talent show, was found by border force officials to be carrying 37.2kg of the class B drug after arriving on a flight from Thailand.

He was taken to the baggage search area after denying he had anything to declare to customs when he landed at Manchester Airport Terminal 2 on November 21 last year, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Officers found 64 packages of cannabis in his four bags, with an estimated street value of almost £1million.

Flores claimed he was offered $3,000 by a 'friend' to take drugs into the UK and has now been jailed after he admitted importing class B drugs.

The 28-year-old from Glendora, California, told officers he'd had a 'penile cancer' scare and couldn't afford medical insurance to pay for tests and treatment.

Prosecutor Phil Hall said at around 9:55pm, Flores had approached a Border Force officer in the baggage reclaim hall and asked if there was a cash exchange, when he was questioned about from where he had flown in.

Flores told officers he only had clothes in his bags, that he was Thailand for three days, and that he was a dancer.

His four bags - including a Gucci rucksack - were x-rayed, and were discovered to be hiding 64 packages of cannabis.

Mr Hall said: 'The packages were weighed and contained a total of 37.02kg. The cannabis was valued as having a wholesale value of £192,000, with a street value of £960,000, although that is based on a slight underweight assessment of 32kg.'

Flores was then arrested and interviewed. 'He stated he was given instructions of what to do via a WhatsApp group on his phone that contained four other people, and that he was told that someone would contact him on his arrival into the UK and collect the suitcases from him,' the prosecutor added.

The dancer accepted that he was aware he was importing cannabis into the UK. Mr Hall added: 'It is the Crown's case that he was a drug mule, performing a limited function and had no influence on others.'

Hugh Barton, mitigating, said his client's work as a dancer and choreographer took him around the globe. He has danced on shows including America's Got Talent.

Mr Barton said: 'It's difficult to envisage the kind of events that would lead him to Liverpool prison - it's totally out of character.'

He added that Flores had a health scare and, having searched the internet for symptoms of 'penile cancer', didn't have medical insurance to pay for test results and treatment.

Mr Barton said: 'There was no fall back position for him. It was in that context he was approached by a 'friend', more somebody who took advantage of his state of apprehension and offered this as a means of raising an amount of cash quickly.'

Flores has been working as a cleaner and cook in prison, the court heard. He had run into trouble when other prisoners accused him of 'not giving big enough portions of chips'.

Mr Barton said: 'He is desperate to return home to his family, and to his career. He has not been served deportation pages, but it is his intention to return to the US as quickly as he can.'

Sentencing, Recorder Katie Jones told Flores: 'You were trusted with a large amount of cannabis, so I find you must have had some form of understanding of the scale of the operation.

'You were willing to take on this role and fully understood what was involved and what was expected of you.'

Flores was jailed for 18 months after he pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of a prohibition or restriction on the import of cannabis. 

He will serve half of the term in prison before he will be eligible for automatic deportation.

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Region: United Kingdom

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