Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Two Alleged International Narcotics Traffickers
Defendants Allegedly Conspired to Transport Cocaine Worth $30 million in a U.S. Aircraft
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Robert G. Koval, Acting Special Agent in Charge, New Jersey Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced that RAWSON EDWARD WATSON, a citizen of the United Kingdom, and NICOLAS EPSKAMP, a citizen of the Netherlands, arrived in the Southern District of New York from the Dominican Republic on November 9, 2012 to face charges for conspiring to distribute cocaine using aircraft registered in the United States. WATSON and EPSKAMP appeared in Manhattan federal court for presentment and arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger this afternoon.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “The close cooperation and partnerships we have forged with international law enforcement are critical to our efforts to bring alleged narco-traffickers and other international criminals to justice. The presence of Rawson Edward Watson and Nicolas Epskamp in the U.S. to face charges in the Southern District is yet another example of the fruits of these relationships. This Office will not let narcotics be flown anywhere in the world on board U.S. aircraft if we can stop it.”
DEA New Jersey Division Acting Special-Agent-in-Charge Robert G. Koval stated: “This drug cell thought they could fly under the radar untouched by any law enforcement officials. The true identity of their alleged criminal enterprise was grounded by outstanding cooperative police work. As alleged, they utilized crafty methods which mislead them to believe they would not be detected. However, when law enforcement agencies force multiply, there is no stronger authority. The DEA, along with our international law enforcement partners, displayed vigorous investigative efforts which led to the arrests of these global traffickers.”
As alleged in the Indictment unsealed on July 2, 2012 and other documents filed in Manhattan federal court:
WATSON and EPSKAMP made arrangements for a U.S.-registered aircraft to be flown from the Dominican Republic to Belgium. They were arrested in the Dominican Republic on December 15, 2011 by Dominican authorities while WATSON and EPSKAMP were boarding the aircraft, which was loaded with 1,000 kilograms of cocaine. The DEA has estimated that this quantity of cocaine has a wholesale market value of at least $30,000,000. .
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The Indictment charges WATSON and EPSKAMP with one count of conspiring to possess and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on board an aircraft owned by a United States citizen or registered in the United States. The maximum penalty for this offense is life imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan is assigned to the case.
NAYEF MAHMOUD FAWAZ, who is also charged in the Indictment, was arrested in Panama on June 24, 2012, and subsequently turned over to U.S. authorities. He was arraigned on these charges on July 5, 2012.
The charges, arrest and transfer of WATSON and EPSKAMP were the result of the close cooperation and efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the New Jersey Division of the DEA, the Caribbean Division of the DEA, and the DEA Dominican Republic Country Office. Mr. Bharara also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randall W. Jackson, Michael D. Lockard, and Shane Stansbury are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.