DETROIT — An indictment charging five former airline employees for their role in drug smuggling operations out of U.S. airports was announced today following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
"We simply cannot allow those entrusted with access to the innermost workings of our transportation systems to violate that trust" said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE HSI for Michigan and Ohio. "The use of commercial aircraft by transnational drug smuggling organizations is a serious vulnerability that must be addressed. This indictment should serve as a stark warning to those who would compromise themselves and the safety of the traveling public for financial gain. HSI and our partners will continue to aggressively target those involved in these smuggling schemes."
Charged in the indictment are Christopher Tanaka Bradley, 38, Cordell Anthony Coke, 37, Kevin Jernigan, 50, Huram David Joseph, 41, and Glenford Earl Anthony Stephens, 48.
According to the indictment, all have been charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.
The defendants were originally arrested in April as part of "Operation Excess Baggage," which began in Jan. 2010 when HSI special agents from the Attaché Kingston, Jamaica contacted Detroit-based agents to alert them of a seizure by Jamaican Customs of marijuana in a suitcase aboard a Northwest Flight bound for Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) from the Donald Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, Jamaica. The suitcase was tagged with a Northwest Airlines baggage tag, bearing the name of an uninvolved passenger. Further investigation revealed additional baggage containing narcotics. Preliminary investigative findings suggested internal involvement of employees of Delta Airlines, formerly Northwest Airlines.
In a related case, Floyd Adams, 42, Kelvin Atwater, 40, LaDale Callaway, 39, Cher Denton, 38, and Yohanis Watson, 37, were indicted in June on the charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.
These defendants were also originally arrested in April as part of "Operation Excess Baggage". It is alleged that they were participants in a separate drug smuggling operation between Houston and Detroit.
If convicted of the charges, the penalties are driven by the drug amounts. In the case of the marijuana shipments from Jamaica to Detroit, the penalties range from up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million on counts one and two, or five to 40 years and a fine of up to $2 million on count three. In the case of the marijuana shipments from Houston to Detroit, the penalties range from five to 40 years in prison and or a fine of up to $2 million.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.