Wed, Oct 17, 2007
Drug-Filled Suitcases Sent From Dominican Republic
In what appears to be the cracking
of an international drug-smuggling operation, officials arrested 18
airline employees this week for trafficking narcotics through John
F. Kennedy International Airport.
The Associated Press reports agents confiscated shipments of
over 100 pounds of cocaine, 55 pounds of heroin and another seven
pounds of ecstasy. The 18 people arrested included seven employees
of Delta, and one worker for American Airlines.
Prosecutors allege airport workers in the Dominican Republic
would place drugs in bags bound for New York. Baggage handlers at
JFK would retrieve the drugs, and whisk them away to a safe area
before the bags could be inspected -- avoiding security workers and
surveillance cameras in the process.
Officials believe the operation was masterminded by 31-year old
Henry Polanco, who Newsday reports called in contacts in the US and
the Caribbean in organizing the trafficking ring. A Delta cargo
supervisor, 38-year-old Jorge Espinal, was also arrested.
US customs agents uncovered the operation, officials said, after
a two-year investigation spurred by a 2005 incident involving drugs
confiscated at JFK that had arrived on a Delta flight.
Delta spokeswoman Chris Kelly said the airline is cooperating in
the probe, and the employees involved have been suspended without
pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
The implicated employees appear to have passed the necessary
background checks before being allowed access to secured areas of
the airport ramp, Kelly added.
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