Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Charlotte among airports used to smuggle fake meth out of Texas

Charlotte among airports used to smuggle fake meth out of Texas

Federal authorities say 10 airline workers at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport used commercial flights to distribute a substance they thought was methamphetamine that was flown to Arizona, New Jersey and elsewhere. All told, the defendants facilitated the transportation of 66 kilograms of counterfeit drugs.

The first shipment occurred on September 30, 2016, when eight kilograms were sent to a Newark, New Jersey airport on American Airlines Flight 0952. The fake drugs then made their way to cities including Newark, Phoenix, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Seven of the arrestees work for Envoy, a subsidiary of American Airlines.

Nine arrests had been made as of Tuesday. One was named as a Spirit Airlines employee and another as a former Spirit employee. "They did this as well as work with others whom they knew had positions of trust at the airport in order to transport kilograms of what they believed to be methamphetamine".

The accused used their employment positions at DFW to bypass security, officials said.

Cox said this has been an ongoing investigation since 2016 and said all of the defendants were not involved with any drug gangs.

Charlotte among airports used to smuggle fake meth out of Texas

Each faces a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a schedule II controlled substance, but some of the 10 are accused of conspiring to move other contraband, such as weapons and explosives, on aircraft departing the airport, according to a news release from the USA attorney's office in Dallas. There were also discussions about transporting C-4 but the fees for transporting this type of contraband would be higher than what was charged for the smuggling of illegal narcotics.

"The defendants negotiated with the undercover officers and charged a specific amount per kilogram", said Nealy Cox, which turned out to be anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 just to transport the fake drugs.

The defendants named in the indictment include Nelson Pabon, 47, Jean Loui Vargas-Malave, 28, Juan Camacho Melendez, 22, Ruben Benitez-Matienzo, 45, Jose Luis Gaston-Rolon, 24, Joshua Israel Pagan Zapata, 21, Domingo Villafane Martinez, III, 30, Luis Javier Collazo Rosado, 21, Michael LNU, 23, and Cristian David Cruz-Rodriguez, 23.

They're expected to appear before a judge later this week, according to the Department of Justice.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, American Airlines stated all airport employees undergo a criminal background check and could not comment on the case itself, but said they were working with the proper authorities.

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