American Airlines Mechanic Found Guilty Of Conspiring To Traffic Bricks Of Cocaine On Airplane: DOJ

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An American Airlines mechanic is guilty of conspiring to traffic bricks of cocaine in a compartment underneath the cockpit of a commercial airplane, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.

A federal jury in Brooklyn on May 2 convicted Paul Belloisi of conspiring to possess cocaine, conspiring to import cocaine and importing cocaine, according to a press release from the attorney’s office.

Prosecutors alleged that on Feb. 4, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers performed a routine search of American Airlines 1349 as it arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport from Montego Bay, Jamaica. During the search, officers discovered 10 bricks of cocaine weighing 25.56 pounds stashed inside an electronics compartment underneath the cockpit, according to the press release. (RELATED: Police Union Director Charged With Smuggling Fentanyl To The US)

In order to catch the perpetrator, the cocaine was switched out with fake bricks and doused with a substance that would glow under a special light. Investigators then placed the aircraft under surveillance, which led them to witness Belloisi access the electronics compartment, according to the press release.

Law enforcement confronted Belloisi and found him carrying an empty tool bag and wearing a jacket with interior cutouts made big enough to hold the bricks. A black light analysis of Belloisi’s gloved hands also showed he had handled the treated bricks, the release continued.

“As proven, the defendant was caught red-handed trying to facilitate the smuggling of a large stash of cocaine hidden in an electronics compartment of the aircraft,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “This corrupt airline mechanic not only abused his position of trust and undermined the security of a vital border crossing in our district, but was also willing to potentially endanger the safety of travelers as well as the community.” (RELATED: Texas Flight Attendant Pleads Guilty To Drug Smuggling Charge)

The cocaine found hidden in the plane had a street value of roughly $285,000 to $320,000, according to the press release.

Belloisi’s sentencing has not yet been carried out, but the attorney’s office said the former mechanic faces up to 20 years in prison after his conviction.