NEWARK, N.J. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents arrested two current and one former Continental Airlines employees on Monday and seized 125 kilograms of cocaine in a drug smuggling conspiracy conducted at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Yunior Lopez, 25, of Elizabeth, N.J.; Amaurys Caminero, 29, of Linden, N.J.; and Kerlwin Taveras, 27, of the Bronx, N.Y., were each charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. The arrests are the result of an ICE HSI-led investigation, which include the seizure of over 47 kilograms of cocaine at the airport over the Labor Day weekend. Lopez and Caminero were arrested at the airport Sept. 4, 2010, and Sept. 5, 2010. Taveras was picked up last night in the Bronx, N.Y.
According to the criminal complaints filed today, Lopez and Caminero, baggage handlers at the airport and co-conspirators, including other Continental Airlines employees, conspired to smuggle cocaine into the United States through the airport. The cocaine was put aboard flights in the Dominican Republic, usually packaged in gym bags with hand-written luggage tags that indicated they had been checked at the departing gate. Once the planes landed in Newark, Lopez, Caminero and others arranged to remove the cocaine from the airplanes, take it from the airport, and facilitate its distribution in the New Jersey and New York areas.
Special Agent in Charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations in Newark Peter T. Edge stated: "Regardless of their role in a drug trafficking organization, persons engaged in the illegal importation of narcotics into the United States through our nation's airports are on notice that ICE HSI will use all of its investigative resources to disrupt and dismantle these criminal enterprises, large or small, and bring them to justice."
During the investigation, ICE HSI agents intercepted numerous communications in support of the conspiracy and in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers made five separate seizures of cocaine, totaling about 125 kilograms.
ICE HSI was assisted in the investigation by CBP officers, under the direction of the Director, Field Operations New York, Robert E. Perez, who stated: "During the course of these events our CBP officers demonstrated the highest level of professionalism, dedication to duty and vigilance in detecting and seizing these illegal narcotics, leading to the apprehension of these conspirators."
The U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman stated: "Criminals may think that having inside operators at airports will save them from detection, but they underestimate our commitment to and focus on the integrity of those who work there. We will continue to come down hard on anyone who tries to comprise the security of the planes on which we fly or try to bring drugs into the neighborhoods in which we live."