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New Jersey flight attendant smuggles millions of dollars in cash drugs to Dominican Republic

  • May 9, 2024
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Flight attendant from New Jersey smuggled millions of dollars worth of drugs to Dominican Republic using special airport corridor

A New Jersey air steward smuggled $2.5 million of an estimated $8 million in drug money from the United States to the Dominican Republic through a scheme who took advantage of the ease of access of cabin crew to airports, the authorities accused.

Charlie Hernandez, 42, of West New York, and three other accomplices accused of smuggling drugs through airports used code words such as “lotions” (for drug money) and “los tigres » (for their partners in drug trafficking), according to the indictment.

Each of them received a commission for slipping money through the unscreened TSA security lanes for international airline employees at JFK Airport, according to the indictment.

The Known Crewmember Program (KCM) provides separate, expedited security lines for approved airline personnel, according to the indictment sealed in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.
“Theft assistants are ideal for smuggling cash in bulk,” the indictment reads. “Indeed, given the relaxation of security procedures, KCM privileges allow flight attendants to bypass airport security with large quantities of money without the latter be seized.

Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested, along with Mr. Hernandez, Sarah Valerio Pujols, 42, of the Bronx, Emmanuel Torres, 34, of Brooklyn and Jarol Fabio, 35, of Manhattan.

“This investigation revealed critical vulnerabilities in the airline security industry and shed light on methods used by narcotics traffickers,” HSI Special Agent in Charge Ivan Arvelo said following the arrest of the four defendants. by federal agents.

Mr. Hernandez is accused of smuggling at least $2.5 million between 2014 and 2019.

Based on what federal agents said was a cut of $1,000 to $2,000 for every $60,000 smuggled, he would have pocketed between $40,000 and $80,000.

Pujols, Torres and Fabio are accused of passing at least $1.5 million each, which would have earned them much less.

Homeland Security Investigations agents and members of the New York Police Department began investigating the international drug trafficking and money laundering network in 2018, according to the indictment.

An informant led members of the El Dorado Task Force to Pujols, who had been fired by an undisclosed airline that law enforcement sources said was Delta.

The informant allegedly gave $121,215 to Hernandez, who allegedly gave $61,215 to Pujols.

Customs and Border Protection officers at JFK Airport then surprised her with $60,000 in undeclared cash in her purse, according to the indictment.