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Contraband
04/11/2017

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Operation Air Bus nets 23 arrests for drug trafficking, money laundering

Drug trafficking organization operated from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport
Operation Air Bus nets 23 arrests for drug trafficking, money laundering
Operation Air Bus nets 23 arrests for drug trafficking, money laundering
Operation Air Bus nets 23 arrests for drug trafficking, money laundering

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, working jointly with officers of the Airport Investigations and Tactical Team (AirTAT), arrested Tuesday 23 individuals for drug trafficking and money laundering. The members of the drug trafficking organization that operated from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (LMMIA) were responsible for the movement of multi-kilograms of cocaine from Puerto Rico to the continental United States.

The five-count indictment alleges that beginning on a date unknown and continuing up to and until the return of the indictment April 10, the defendants smuggled multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine through the LMMIA to major cities in the eastern United States. The charging document also alleges that those arrested played different roles and used several methods to circumvent Transportation Security Administration (TSA) procedures at the LMMIA. Some members of the organization acted as leaders, facilitators, transporters and mules and conspired with each other to move the cocaine so it passed the security screeners undetected.

This case is part of the ongoing efforts of the HSI San Juan Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) and the AirTAT. Launched in January 2015, AirTAT is a multi-agency initiative created to identify, locate, disrupt, dismantle, and prosecute domestic and transnational criminal organizations and its operatives using the LMMIA, the Fernando Luis Rivas Dominicci Airport and peripheral airports as platforms to smuggle narcotics, weapons, human cargo, counterfeit documents and illicit proceeds. These airports play a strategic role for drug trafficking organizations to conduct contraband smuggling activities inbound and outbound to the continental United States as well as international destinations.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart J. Zander is in charge of the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Díaz-Rex, deputy chief of the international narcotics unit. If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison. 

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