TSA Former Employee And Another Individual Indicted For Drug Trafficking
Defendants face a narcotics forfeiture allegation of 30 million dollars
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On November 2nd, 2016, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment against two defendants charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is in charge of the investigation with collaboration from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Transportation Security Agency (TSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Police of Puerto Rico.
The indictment, unsealed today, alleges that from on or about 2008, José Cruz-López smuggled kilogram quantities of cocaine while employed as a TSA Officer at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMMIA) in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At the time, Cruz-López worked at the TSA X-Ray machine in the airport. Cruz-López would “clear” suitcases containing kilograms of cocaine by allowing them to pass through the X-Ray machines and onto airplanes without detection. In 2008, Edwin Francisco Castro began assisting Cruz-López with the drug smuggling ventures. Castro was employed by Empresas Santana, an airport service company, as a supervisor in the Wheelchair Section at LMMIA.
During the course of the conspiracy, Cruz-López and Castro smuggled suitcases, each containing at least 8 to 12 kilograms of cocaine, through the TSA security system at LMMIA. From 2008 through 2016, Cruz-López and Castro helped smuggle approximately 1,500 kilograms of cocaine through LMMIA.
According to the indictment, Cruz-López, in his capacity as a TSA employee, was a public official who accepted bribe payments. Cruz-López took multiple cash payments totaling in excess of $215,000.00 in exchange for allowing luggage, which he knew contained kilogram quantities of cocaine, bypass normal baggage screening procedures so that the luggage could be placed on outbound airplanes departing the LMMIA for destinations in the continental United States.
This case is part of the ongoing efforts of the Airport Investigations and Tactical Team (AirTAT). Originating in January 2015, AirTAT is a multi-agency initiative created to identify, locate, disrupt, dismantle, and prosecute Domestic and Transnational Criminal Organizations (DTCOs) and its operatives using the LMMIA, the Fernando Luis Rivas Dominicci Airport (the Isla Grande airport), and peripheral airports as platforms to smuggle narcotics, weapons, human cargo, counterfeit documents, illicit proceeds, and others. These airports play a strategic role for DTCOs to conduct contraband smuggling activities inbound and outbound to the continental US as well as internationally.
“These two individuals were involved in a conspiracy to traffic massive quantities of illegal narcotics to the continental United States,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “These arrests demonstrate the Justice Department’s continued commitment to arrest and hold responsible those who engage in drug trafficking. The creation of AirTAT has successfully collocated a dedicated group of state and federal law enforcement officers, whose mission is to ensure that our airports are not used in the drug traffickers’ illicit businesses.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart J. Zander is in charge of the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Díaz-Rex, Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Unit. If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.