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Airline Employees Charged With Drug Smuggling


August 1997

On July 30, Federal agents charged twelve Delta Air Lines employees of smuggling drugs into the United States. Nine Delta Airlines workers were arrested and three others are sought as suspects in a scheme that brought 10 tons of Colombian cocaine into the U.S. via Delta flights from Puerto Rico. Over a three to four year period, employees stashed cocaine in suitcases and packed the drug into cargo containers which were then transported primarily to New York from San Juan's Munóz Marin International Airport, agents said (Christopher Wren, "Nine at Delta Are Seized in Smuggling of Cocaine," New York Times, July 31, 1997, p. A23; "Delta workers indicted on cocaine smuggling charges," USA Today, July 31, 1997, p. 3A; "Airline Workers Held in Drug Ring," Washington Post, July 31, 1997, p. A16).

In a separate investigation, agents in Miami arrested six American Airlines employees on July 31 who allegedly imported heroin and cocaine from Bogota, Colombia. The drugs were stashed behind walls in the airplane galleys. Since November the employees allegedly smuggled 1,100 pounds of cocaine and up to 22 pounds of heroin. The drugs were placed on the plane in Bogota, but not unloaded until after the plane had landed in Miami and then made one domestic round trip flight to avoid surveillance at Miami International. The scheme required "not only a mechanic's or a cargo handler's knowledge but an operations man's knowledge of where a flight is coming from, whether it's going to go and where it's going to go if it is," said Art Kosatka, security specialist for Counter Technology Inc. (Richard Willing, "Airline drug smugglers getting ever more sophisticated," USA Today, August 1, 1997, p. 4A).