ICE Agents Arrest Continental Airlines Employees on Cocaine Smuggling
N.J. (ICE) — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents
in Newark arrested three Continental Airlines employees and a
former private security guard last night on charges of conspiracy
to smuggle cocaine into the United States through Newark Liberty
arrested Kemuel “Kenny” Hernandez, Jose Minaya, and
Justriminio “David” Abreu, all baggage handlers for
Continental Airlines, and Jose Lopez, a former private security
guard at Newark Airport, in the operation.
All are charged
with using their positions at secure areas of the airport to act
as “lookouts” while others diverted cocaine-laden
luggage from international to domestic baggage carousels. Through
these means and by retagging suitcases containing cocaine, the
conspirators sought to ensure that uniformed law enforcement personnel
did not inspect the luggage.
the conspirators were able to divert luggage containing as much
as 37 pounds of cocaine at a time. Once the luggage was delivered
to the domestic carousel, it was picked up and delivered to various
locations in the New York/New Jersey area.
smuggling operation originated in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela
and Mexico, where the narcotics were loaded onto commercial aircraft
destined for the United States. The Newark ring operated from
January 2000 to August 2003, and over that time, approximately
100 kilograms of cocaine were seized.
in Newark conducted this investigation with the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, the New York-New Jersey Port Authority, the
Drug Enforcement Administration, and Continental Airlines Security.
In June 2004,
ICE agents arrested six Continental Airlines employees at Newark
Airport in a related conspiracy. Also arrested as part of that
operation were Continental employees at airports in Miami and
Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge of the ICE office in Newark, stated
that this investigation was part of an overall search for vulnerabilities
in the airline travel industry, and that “employees like
this pose a significant threat to our national security.”
face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on this
charge, conspiracy to traffic more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
Additional arrests are expected.