Skip to main content
Press Release

International Narcotics Trafficker Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To 17 Years In Prison For Conspiring To Distribute One Ton Of Cocaine Using A U.S.-Registered Aircraft

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RAWSON EDWARD WATSON, a citizen of the United Kingdom, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 17 years in prison for conspiring to distribute approximately 1,000 kilograms of cocaine using an aircraft registered in the United States. WATSON arrived in the Southern District of New York on November 9, 2012, from the Dominican Republic, where he was apprehended on December 15, 2011. WATSON pled guilty in September 2013 before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan, who also imposed today’s sentence.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Rawson Edward Watson admitted to conspiring to use a U.S.-registered plane to distribute more than a ton of cocaine, worth over $30 million. As a result of today’s sentence, the defendant will spend 17 years in prison for his crime.”

According to the Indictment to which WATSON pled guilty, statements in open court, and other court documents:

In late 2011, WATSON traveled to the Dominican Republic and worked with others to arrange a private aircraft registered in the United States to be flown with cocaine from the Dominican Republic to Belgium. For almost two months, WATSON coordinated with various co-conspirators in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere to ensure that the cocaine was safely loaded onto the aircraft and transported out of the country without detection from law enforcement. On December 15, 2011, the day on which the flight ultimately was scheduled to depart, Watson was arrested at an airport in the Dominican Republic after he had boarded the U.S.-registered aircraft dressed as a flight attendant. The aircraft was loaded with suitcases containing approximately 1,000 kilograms of cocaine. The DEA has estimated that the quantity of cocaine on board the aircraft where WATSON was arrested has a wholesale market value of at least $30,000,000.

WATSON, 48, was sentenced to 17 years in prison with no supervised release to follow. WATSON faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of 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 Government of the Dominican Republic for its assistance, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shane T. Stansbury, Michael D. Lockard, and Anna M. Skotko are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated May 13, 2015

Press Release Number: 14-113