LOS ANGELES – Two men face federal drug trafficking charges after they were arrested earlier this week at Los Angeles International Airport for allegedly attempting to smuggle heroin in luggage on two commercial airline flights.
Cristian Santos, 21, of Compton, was arrested on Tuesday by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration after boarding a Delta Airlines flight.
Special agents with the DEA on Tuesday also arrested Joel Aron, 18, of Tijuana, Mexico, after he boarded a Hawaiian Airlines flight.
Both Santos and Aron appeared in United States District Court yesterday afternoon and were ordered to appear for arraignments on June 8.
A criminal complaint filed yesterday alleges narcotics were discovered in Santos’ luggage after he checked in for a flight bound for Indianapolis. After seeing something suspicious in one of Santos’ bags during a scan, the Transportation Security Administration inspected the bag. TSA officers discovered an item wrapped with black electrical tape concealed inside the inner layer of the luggage. After determining the package inside the luggage was not an explosive, TSA officers opened the package and found a brown, tar-like substance. A subsequent test confirmed the presence of heroin. The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint states that estimated street value of the heroin in Indiana is $250,000.
Los Angeles Airport Police located Santos on his Delta Airlines flight, and escorted him off the airplane. During a subsequent interview, Santos admitted to DEA special agents that the luggage belonged to him, and that he was working with other individuals in exchange for payment, according to the affidavit.
The complaint charges Santos with possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance. If convicted, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
In the case against Aron, a criminal complaint also filed yesterday alleges that narcotics were discovered in his luggage after he checked in for a flight bound for Honolulu. The drugs were discovered after TSA officers saw something suspicious in one of Aron’s bags during an image scan. The “mass” seen on an image scan tested positive for the presence of heroin with an estimated street value in Hawaii of $225,000.
Los Angeles Airport Police located Aron on his Hawaiian Airlines flight, and escorted him off the airplane. According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Aron admitted to DEA special agents during an interview that the luggage belonged to him and this was the fourth time he had acted as a courier. Aron allegedly admitted that, each time he acted as a courier, he travelled from Mexico to Los Angeles, where he received a bag that he brought to Hawaii in exchange for $3,000.
The complaint charges Aron with possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance. If convicted, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The DEA Los Angeles International Airport Narcotics Task Force, an inter-agency task force based at LAX, is conducting the two investigations. The Task Force is charged with providing a coordinated law enforcement effort to target airport/airline internal criminal enterprises that use the aviation system to transport large amounts of illicit drugs throughout the United States, and throughout the world.
In addition to the DEA, the Task Force is made up of representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Airport Police, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The Task Force also works closely with the United States Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.
The cases against Santos and Aron are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.