News and Press Releases

Two airline passengers who smuggled liquid cocaine into u.S. appear in federal court for plea, sentencing

September 14, 2011


Cristobal Puyuelo Gracia Pleads Guilty, Maria Angeles Cano Tomas Sentenced, on Drug Importation Charges

NEWARK, N.J. – A woman from Spain was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison by U.S. District Judge William J. Martini for her role in illegally importing more than 5 kilograms of cocaine into the United States on a flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

In a related matter, the woman’s traveling companion admitted his role in illegally importing the cocaine, entering a plea of guilty before Judge Martini.

Maria Angeles Cano Tomas, 28, of Spain, previously pleaded guilty to an Information charging her with illegally importing cocaine into the United States. Cristobal Puyuelo-Gracia, 30, also of Spain, pleaded guilty to illegally importing more cocaine into the country.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in Newark federal court:

On October 1, 2010, Cano Tomas and Puyuelo-Gracia arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport as passengers traveling together on board an American Airlines commercial flight from Buenos Aires en route to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Due to inclement weather, the flight had been re-routed to Newark, where the defendants took possession of their luggage and proceeded to inspection by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.

Cano Tomas and Puyuelo-Gracia were selected for secondary customs inspections. CBP officers discovered six bottles of liquid labeled “Alcachofa” and “Una de Gato.” The liquid found within the bottles field tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Cano Thomas and Puyuelo-Gracia admitted they imported more than 5 kilograms of cocaine into the United States on a flight from Argentina in October 2010.

The illegal importation charge to which Puyuelo-Gracia pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of life in prison and a $4 million fine.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Martini sentenced Cano Tomas to three years of supervised release. Sentencing for Puyuelo-Gracia is currently scheduled for January 11, 2012, before Judge Martini.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Andrew M. McLees, and officers of CBP, under the leadership of Director of New York Field Operations Robert E. Perez, and officers of the Port Authority Police Department of New York and New Jersey, under the direction of Superintendent Michael A. Fedorko, with the arrest and investigation leading to today’s guilty plea and sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacques S. Pierre of the United States Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit.


Defense counsel: Lorraine Gauli-Rufo, Assistant Federal Public Defender for Cano Tomas;
Gary L. Cutler, Esq., attorney for Puyuelo-Gracia.

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