Fort Worth

Feds: 10 schemed to load drugs, weapons and explosives on aircraft at DFW Airport

Federal officials arrested 10 employees of companies working out of DFW Airport who have been indicted on federal drug distribution charges.
Federal officials arrested 10 employees of companies working out of DFW Airport who have been indicted on federal drug distribution charges. Star-Telegram file

Federal indictments have been issued for 10 employees of companies working out of DFW Airport and nine have been arrested and face federal drug distribution charges.

Each faces a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a schedule II controlled substance, but some of the 10 are accused of conspiring to move other contraband, such as weapons and explosives, on aircraft departing the airport, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in Dallas.

Nine arrests had been made as of Tuesday, according to authorities. Seven of those arrested are employees for Envoy, a subsidiary of American Airlines. One of those indicted was named as a Spirit Airlines employee and another was named as a former Spirit employee. Authorities did not have information on the tenth suspect.

“We have zero tolerance for employees who seek to undermine and evade the security protocols at airports,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said in a statement. “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.”

The investigation began in August 2016, when the suspects were provided with a substance that they believed to be methamphetamine, the release said. The suspects arranged to ship the counterfeit drugs through DFW Airport and onto commercial airline flights, the release stated.

The suspects agreed to prices between $1,500 and $2,000 to move the fake methamphetamine in kilogram amounts, according to the indictments.

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Fake methamphetamine was shipped out to airports across the nation to help gather evidence in a smuggling operation Courtesy of the U.S. attorney's office, northern district of Texas

The counterfeit drugs were shipped to various locations in the United States, including Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, and Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, the release stated.

The suspects used their positions of employment with companies at DFW Airport to bypass security measures and in return, they accepted payment for the transportation and delivery of the counterfeit drugs, according to the release.

The defendants would also act as lookouts or engage in counter-surveillance to undermine police presence.

During the investigation, one of the defendants said he could transport guns using commercial airlines, and there were also discussions about transporting a military-grade explosive, C4 plastic explosive; however, the fees for shipping weapons and explosives were higher than the cost of smuggling illegal narcotics, the release said.

The suspects helped transport a total of 66 kilograms of counterfeit drugs, the release said.

The Indictment, returned last week and unsealed Tuesday, 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.

At border towns, cartel drug smugglers are only limited by their imagination, often hiding drugs in secret compartments within vehicles.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3



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