An American singer suspected of trying to smuggle more than two pounds of heroin in his stomach was detained as he tried to board a U.S.-bound flight at a Dominican airport, authorities said Tuesday.
Ramon Alcides Rodriguez, spokesman of the country's drug control agency, said that New York-born bachata singer Jimmy Bauer became sick at Santo Domingo's international airport on Monday when a couple of pellets he had swallowed apparently burst.
Bauer, whose real name is Jaime Vargas, was trying to board a flight to the United States when customs and drug authorities stopped him for "strange behavior," Rodriguez said. He said an X-ray examination of Bauer's abdomen showed dozens of pellets in his stomach.
Dominican authorities rushed Bauer to a nearby military hospital, where 88 pellets were extracted from his stomach, Rodriguez said. Two other pellets had burst, he added.
Authorities initially suspected the pellets contained cocaine, but Rodriguez said laboratory tests showed it was 1.04 kilograms (2.2 pounds) of pure heroin.
Bauer, who was hospitalized in serious condition, was being guarded by three officers of the drug agency.
The New York resident of Dominican heritage is a minor figure in bachata, a musical genre that originated in the Caribbean nation's countryside and is recognizable for its slow, sensual sound marked by bongos, maracas and the pluck of guitars.
It was not clear if Bauer, who was part of a merengue group in Puerto Rico before focusing on bachata in 2005, had a lawyer. His hometown was not immediately available.
The singer's manager, Irvin Lozada, said Tuesday he was "completely astonished" to hear of Bauer's situation in the Dominican Republic.
"I never saw Jimmy use drugs," Lozada said from New Jersey, while adding that he knew little about Bauer's personal life. He said he was trying to get in contact with the singer's relatives.
The Dominican Republic is a major transit point for drugs bound for the United States.