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2 airline passengers who smuggled liquid cocaine into US are sentenced

NEWARK, N.J. — A woman from Spain was sentenced to a year and a day in prison on Wednesday for her role in illegally importing more than five kilograms of cocaine into the United States. Her traveling companion also admitted his role in the illegal operation. The sentence is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Maria Angeles Cano Tomas, 28, of Spain, had previously pleaded guilty to illegally importing cocaine into the United States on a flight from Argentina. Cristobal Puyuelo-Gracia, 30, also of Spain, pled guilty to the same charge.

According to court documents, on Oct. 1, 2010, Cano Tomas and Puyuelo-Gracia arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport as passengers traveling together on an American Airlines flight from Buenos Aires en route to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Due to inclement weather, the flight was diverted to Newark, where the pair took possession of their luggage and proceeded to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checkpoint.

Both were selected for secondary customs inspections. CBP officers discovered six bottles of liquid labeled "Alcachofa and "Una de Gato. The liquid found within the bottles field tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Both admitted they imported more than five kilograms of cocaine into the United States.

"HSI and our law enforcement partners across the spectrum will continue to work tirelessly to eradicate dangerous drugs from our communities, said Andrew McLees, acting special agent in charge of HSI in Newark. "Drug traffickers are on notice that whatever methods they use to illegally import drugs, HSI and CBP will bring them to justice.

In addition to the prison term, Cano Tomas was sentenced to three years of supervised release. Puyuelo-Gracia is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 11, 2012.