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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 22, 2019

Baggage Handler At Newark International Airport Convicted Of Narcotics Trafficking And Firearms Offenses In Manhattan Federal Court

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that TYRONE WOOLASTON was found guilty yesterday of conspiring to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, and using a firearm in furtherance of cocaine trafficking, in connection with a multi-year scheme to smuggle cocaine into the United States through Newark International Airport.  A unanimous jury convicted WOOLASTON after a two-week trial before United States District Judge Robert W. Sweet. 

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As proven at trial, Tyrone Woolaston abused his position as an airline employee with secure access to restricted areas of Newark International Airport.  In reality, Woolaston was also a drug dealer, who smuggled large cocaine shipments through the airport and into the United States. To protect his drug dealing operation, Woolaston possessed an arsenal of weapons, including a .40 caliber Glock pistol equipped with a laser sight.  Thankfully, Woolaston now stands convicted and faces at least 15 years in prison.”   

According to court documents and the evidence at trial:

WOOLASTON was a lead baggage handler for a commercial airline at Newark Liberty International Airport (the “Airport”). From in or about 2013 through February 2018, WOOLASTON conspired to smuggle shipments of cocaine into the United States. WOOLASTON abused his secure access to the restricted areas of the airport to remove suitcases containing shipments of multiple kilograms of cocaine from international flights and smuggle them through the Airport for distribution in the New York City area.

In 2017 and 2018, agents from the New Jersey Office of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) conducted an undercover operation to investigate cocaine smuggling at the Airport. As part of the investigation, a confidential source met with WOOLASTON to arrange a cocaine shipment, and WOOLASTON agreed to bring a suitcase containing five kilograms of cocaine through the Airport. On February 10, 2018, HSI agents placed a suitcase containing approximately five kilograms of sham cocaine on an international flight from the Cayman Islands to the Airport. WOOLASTON was working on the tarmac when the flight arrived at the Airport, and took possession of the suitcase and carried the sham cocaine shipment through the Airport, evading customs screening. The following day, WOOLASTON carried a .40 caliber Glock pistol, equipped with a laser sight, to deliver the sham cocaine to the confidential source.

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WOOLASTON, 35, of Orange, New Jersey, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison, and one count of using a firearm in furtherance of narcotics trafficking, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. 

Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the Newark Field Office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Port Authority Police Department assisted in the investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thane Rehn and Alison Moe are in charge of the prosecution.

Press Release Number: 
19-054
Updated February 22, 2019