JULY 17 (NEWARK, N.J.) – Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the New Jersey Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Paul J. Fishman, the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, announced a former U.S. Postal Service employee was sentenced today to 46 months in prison for her role in a scheme to intercept cocaine-laden packages mailed from Puerto Rico to New Jersey.
Christina Nunez, 30, of Lyndhurst, N.J., previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas to an information charging her with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine and one count of mail theft. Judge Salas imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
Last month, her husband, Luis A. Vega, 37, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for his role in distributing the cocaine-laden packages. Vega previously pleaded guilty before Judge Salas to an information charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Since December 2010, Nunez had been receiving packages of cocaine, which were mailed from Puerto Rico to delivery addresses along her mail route. Nunez intercepted the packages, scanned them as delivered despite never delivering the packages to their actual delivery addresses, and ultimately transported them to conspirators in Camden, N.J.
Law enforcement seized approximately two kilograms of cocaine during the investigation. On Feb. 1, 2011, inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service lawfully seized approximately 1,300 grams of cocaine from an express mail package that was supposed to be delivered by Nunez. After this seizure, the drug trafficking organization ceased sending packages until December 2011, when, once again, packages sent from Puerto Rico were mailed to addresses assigned to Nunez’s mail route.
Another suspicious package was sent from Dorado, Puerto Rico, on August 22, 2012. Once the package arrived in Kearny, N.J., law enforcement noted that the delivery address on the package would be assigned to Nunez’s mail route. Subsequent laboratory analysis confirmed that the package contained approximately 500 grams of cocaine. The cocaine was seized and replaced with a substance similar in appearance to the contents of the package. The package was placed back into circulation for delivery. On August 24, 2012, Nunez failed to deliver the package to its delivery address. At the end of her shift, Nunez returned to her residence in Lyndhurst, N.J., with the package, where she and Vega were arrested.
In addition to intercepting the cocaine-filled packages on her mail route, both Nunez and Vega received packages of narcotics at her residence in Lyndhurst and Vega’s former residence in Jersey City, N.J. In total, it is estimated that Nunez, Vega and their conspirators distributed more than 18 kilograms of cocaine between October 2010 and August 24, 2012.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Salas sentenced Nunez to two years of supervised release. Judge Salas also imposed a two-year period of supervised release on Vega.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski; inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates; special agents of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Rafael Medina, with the investigation leading to today’s sentence.