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Contraband
10/14/2010

Airline employees indicted on drug smuggling charges

NEW YORK - On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York announced charges against two airline employees for the their role in a drug smuggling scheme. The charges stem from an investigation led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

A superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn was unsealed today charging former American Airlines baggage handler Victor Bourne and former American Airlines dispatching crew chief Miguel Bozza with drug trafficking and related charges. The superseding indictment also charges Maria Alleyne, the mother of Victor Bourne, with structuring the purchase of money orders to avoid financial reporting requirements.

The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch and James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of ICE HSI in New York.

Assistance for the investigation was provided by the Internal Revenue Service, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to the indictment and other court filings, between 2000 and 2009, Victor Bourne, a Barbadian national, was the leader of a drug trafficking organization (the "Bourne Organization") that relied on corrupt employees of commercial airlines, including American Airlines, at domestic and international ports of entry to smuggle drugs into the United States and throughout the Caribbean. As part of its criminal activity, the Bourne Organization allegedly arranged for cocaine to be stowed aboard American Airlines flights leaving the Caribbean for John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The organization then paid dispatching crew chiefs at American Airlines, including Miguel Bozza, to assign crews of baggage handlers, who were also paid by the Bourne Organization, to retrieve the cocaine upon arrival. As part of the government's investigation, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized multiple shipments of cocaine from American Airlines passenger flights.

According to a court filing by the government, the Bourne Organization was responsible for the importation more than 150 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. The indictment further alleges that the organization was responsible for the shipment of more than 5,000 kilograms of marijuana aboard cargo vessels, in part through a Brooklyn footwear business owned by Maria Alleyne, to businesses in Barbados. Bourne and Alleyne structured the purchase of U.S. Postal Service money orders to avoid federal reporting requirements, and thereby, enabled the organization to transfer clandestinely its drug proceeds.

"These charges are another example our continuing pursuit of international drug traffickers through a global enforcement strategy," stated Lynch. "We will continue to investigate and prosecute workers at our ports of entry who threaten the integrity of our borders."

"The use of commercial aircraft to smuggle narcotics creates a serious threat to both national security and public safety," said Hayes. "As the investigative arm of the U.S. Department Homeland Security, HSI is committed to bringing to justice individuals directly involved with these criminal enterprises and those who are complicit in furthering their schemes."

Bourne is charged with conducting a continuing criminal enterprise; Bourne and Bozza are charged with importing and distributing narcotics, as well as conspiring to do so, and wire fraud conspiracy; and Bourne and Alleyne are charged with conspiring to avoid financial reporting requirements through structured financial transactions. If convicted of all charges, Bourne and Bozza face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and Alleyne faces a maximum of five years imprisonment. The government is also seeking forfeiture of the organization's criminally derived proceeds.