US

Flying High: Several Airport And Airline Employees Indicted For Cocaine Smuggling Operation

airplane Shutterstock/Andy Dean Photography

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent

More than 20 employees at Puerto Rico’s main airport were allegedly involved in an elaborate cocaine smuggling operation, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

The alleged operation involved 26 individuals who were indicted by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico Monday. This group of individuals included employees of American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, the airport’s cleaning service, and an airport restaurant. The smuggling operation was allegedly led by Humberto Concepción-Andrades and used several methods to transport multiple kilograms of cocaine from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport into the continental US.

These individuals allegedly misused their employment at the airport for the benefit of the smuggling operation. American Airlines employees allegedly placed tags on luggage that said they was screened by TSA when they were not.

Other American Airlines cargo employees allegedly took advantage of free shipping privileges to send kilos of cocaine to the U.S., while restaurant employees allegedly hid cocaine in empty five-pound coffee bags, and cleaning service employees brought backpacks full of cocaine to mules waiting in bathroom stalls.

“These individuals developed numerous smuggling lines to transport cocaine through the [Luis Munoz Marin International Airport] in Puerto Rico to the Continental United States. Today we have brought their operations to a grinding halt,” Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, said in a statement.

The defendants face anywhere from ten years to life in prison, if convicted.