Former continental airlines mechanic admits conspiracy to distribute heroin by using international flights
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2011
NEWARK, N.J. – A former Continental Airlines aircraft mechanic pleaded guilty today in connection with a conspiracy to distribute heroin using inbound international flights to Newark Liberty International Airport, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Joseph Muniz, 59, of Perth Amboy, N.J., pleaded guilty to an Indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin. Muniz entered his plea just before closing arguments were to begin in a four-day trial presided over by U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Muniz admitted that from September 2007 through March 2008, he played a role in an international narcotics trafficking operation bringing heroin from Colombia. Muniz, who was then employed as a Continental Airlines interior aircraft mechanic, accessed an inbound flight to retrieve packages of heroin that had been hidden in passenger seat life jacket compartments.
The disruption of the network followed a law enforcement operation involving the use of confidential informants, electronic surveillance, and a federally-authorized wiretap investigation. The participants in this drug trafficking network used Continental Airlines planes and equipment to import narcotics into the United States for subsequent distribution to purchasers in New Jersey and surrounding areas.
Muniz also admitted delivering packages containing heroin to his co-conspirator, Jose Moreno, 46, of Kenilworth, N.J., in exchange for payment. Moreno and co-conspirator Edward Cortes Romero, 50, of Cali, Colombia, previously pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme and await sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Peter T. Edge; and officers of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, under the leadership of Director of New York Field Operations Robert E. Perez; as well as detectives from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dennis C. Carletta of the U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Unit and David L. Foster of the Office’s Narcotics/Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: Clifford N. Kuhn Jr. Esq., Edison, N.J.