DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Federal authorities say 10 people who worked at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport used commercial flights to distribute methamphetamine that was flown to Arizona, New Jersey and elsewhere.
Prosecutors announced Tuesday the 10 were arrested a day earlier and each indicted on a count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
“This is about greed and the people who abuse their positions of trust,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox.
Authorities say starting in 2016, the group used their positions to bypass security and place the meth on flights.
They allegedly had 145 pounds of the drug transported to various domestic destinations.“We have zero tolerance for employees who seek to undermine and evade the security protocols at airports,” said Cox. “Smugglers are constantly seeking new ways to move illegal contraband across the country and we will do whatever necessary to thwart these criminals at every turn. Working together with federal and local law enforcement partners, we continue to prioritize efforts to help mitigate the insider threat to aviation security.”
At least one defendant had said he would transport firearms on commercial flights but it’s not clear if that actually was done.
But prosecutors say they ended the conspiracy when one of the employees claimed they could smuggle more items.
“He and his co-conspirators could smuggle anything onto planes, including guns,” said Cox. “He also discussed the ability and willingness to smuggle plastic explosives onto the planes.”
The bulk of the meth was sent to Newark, New Jersey, while other shipments were flown to Phoenix and Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Allowing any contraband into a public environment is a line we’re not willing to cross and that’s why the decision was made,” said Eric Jackson, Special Agent In Charge, Dallas FBI. “It was an easy and consistent decision we were not going to allow it to go to that point.”
The U.S. Attorney sought to reassure the public about the integrity of airport security.
“We’re working closely with the airlines affected, we’re working with DFW, we’re working with TSA, and others to ensure that we’re addressing whatever security measures were bypassed,” said Cox.
According to the indictment, beginning in August 2016, the suspects acquired a substance that they believed to be methamphetamine.
They arranged for the transportation and delivery of the counterfeit drugs through the DFW Airport and onto commercial airline flights, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
They utilized their jobs with companies at DFW Airport to bypass security measures and in return, got paid for the transportation and delivery of the counterfeit drugs. The suspects would also act as “look-outs” or engage in counter-surveillance to undermine police presence.
Also during the investigation, one of the suspects said he could transport guns via commercial airlines, the U.S. Attorney’s Office explained.
There were also discussions about transporting C-4 but the fees for transporting this type of contraband would be higher than what was charged for the smuggling of illegal narcotics. A
American Airlines released a statement following the arrest of Envoy Air employees:
“At American & Envoy Air, we have an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our customers & team members. We take this matter very seriously & are cooperating with law enforcement.”
A spokesman at Spirit Airlines told CBS11, Spirit has been advised of this matter and will cooperate fully with law enforcement.
The indictment charges Nelson Pabon, 47, Jean Loui Vargas-Malave, 28, Juan Camacho Melendez, aka “Kendo Kaponi” and “Anthony,” 22, Ruben Benitez-Matienzo, 45, Jose Luis Gaston-Rolon, 24, Joshua Israel Pagan Zapata, 21, Domingo Villafane Martinez, III, 30, Luis Javier Collazo Rosado, aka “Luisito,” 21, Michael LNU, and Cristian David Cruz-Rodriguez, 23, with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a schedule II controlled substance.
The defendants were arrested Monday and will make their initial appearances before a United States Magistrate Judge later this week.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)