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March 24, 2021Los Angeles, CA, United StatesNarcotics

HSI arrests Los Angeles-area woman for allegedly trafficking fentanyl and heroin through Southern California airports

LOS ANGELES – Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) today arrested a San Bernardino County woman on an indictment charging her with recruiting drug couriers to smuggle pound quantities of fentanyl and heroin through Southern California airports for transport to other parts of the United States.

Following an investigation by the HSI Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), Chavon Sayles, a.k.a. “Amber,” 28, of Chino, was arrested this morning at her residence. She is expected to be arraigned this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

A federal grand jury indictment returned on March 16 charges her with one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl, and one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl.

According to the indictment, from June 2018 to March 2019, Sayles and other co-conspirators recruited drug couriers to transport heroin and fentanyl through Hollywood Burbank Airport, Long Beach Airport and Ontario International Airport to Ohio, Oregon, and elsewhere in the nation. Sayles allegedly contacted the couriers the night before the flight, and then booked their flight.

The couriers would then receive a bag containing concealed pound quantities of drugs, and they would be responsible for checking it in at the airport, the indictment alleges. In June 2018, a co-conspirator, for whom Sayles allegedly purchased a plane ticket the night before, checked a bag intended for delivery to other co-conspirators in Ohio containing 6.5 pounds of heroin at Hollywood Burbank Airport. In July 2018, Sayles allegedly picked up another co-conspirator and dropped her off at Long Beach Airport with 6.6 pounds of fentanyl in her luggage for a flight to Dayton, Ohio.

In January 2019, Sayles allegedly told one co-conspirator via text to get ready for a short trip from Ontario International Airport to Portland, Oregon, the next day, and to “make sure you bring a lot of stuff your bag has to look so full it’s going to bust.” The co-conspirator later checked into the airport with a bag containing 3.2 pounds of heroin, the indictment alleges.

If convicted of all charges, Sayles would face a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Other co-conspirators, including Tatijana Bell, 27, of San Bernardino, and Keeshanai Monique Wilcher, 27, of San Bernardino, have pleaded guilty to federal narcotics charges in connection with this case. Wilcher is serving a 31-month prison sentence for her role in this drug-trafficking operation.

This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s International Narcotics, Money Laundering and Racketeering Section and the General Crimes Section.

The HSI Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force (LA BEST) was established to combat existing and emerging Transnational Criminal Organizations by employing the full range of federal, state, local, tribal and international law enforcement resources in the fight to identify, investigate, disrupt, and dismantle these criminal organizations posing significant threats to border security.

HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.