DALLAS — A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging 10 individuals for their role in conspiring to traffic contraband through Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport, announced Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, at a press conference Tuesday.
The law enforcement operation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Dallas Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Police Department.
The Indictment, returned last week and unsealed this morning, charges Nelson Pabon, 47, Jean Loui Vargas-Malave, 28, Juan Camacho Melendez, aka “Kendo Kaponi” and “Anthony,” 22, Ruben Benitez-Matienzo, 45, Jose Luis Gaston-Rolon, 24, Joshua Israel Pagan Zapata, 21, Domingo Villafane Martinez, III, 30, Luis Javier Collazo Rosado, aka “Luisito,” 21, Michael LNU, and Cristian David Cruz-Rodriguez, 23, with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a schedule II controlled substance. The defendants were arrested Monday and will make their initial appearances before a United States Magistrate Judge later this week.
“We have zero tolerance for employees who seek to undermine and evade the security protocols at airports,” said Nealy Cox. “Smugglers are constantly seeking new ways to move illegal contraband across the country and we will do whatever necessary to thwart these criminals at every turn. Working together with federal and local law enforcement partners, we continue to prioritize efforts to help mitigate the insider threat to aviation security.”
According to the indictment and beginning in August 2016, the defendants acquired a substance that they believed to be methamphetamine. They arranged for the transportation and delivery of the counterfeit drugs through the DFW Airport and onto commercial airline flights.
The defendants utilized their position of employment with companies at DFW Airport to bypass security measures and in return, they accepted payment for the transportation and delivery of the counterfeit drugs. The defendants would also act as “lookouts” or engage in counter-surveillance to undermine police presence.
lso during the investigation, one of the defendants stated he could transport guns via commercial airlines. There were also discussions about transporting C-4 but the fees for transporting this type of contraband would be higher than what was charged for the smuggling of illegal narcotics. All told, the defendants facilitated the transportation of 66 kilograms of counterfeit drugs. The counterfeit drugs were transported to various locations throughout the United States, including Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona.
“The FBI would like to thank its local and federal partners that assisted in this investigation. This joint operation allowed us to successfully arrest ten individuals who used their positions of employment and access to compromise an aspect of airport security,” said Eric K. Jackson, FBI Dallas Special Agent-In-Charge. “We at the FBI will continue to work diligently with our partners to ensure we aggressively investigate anyone who poses a threat to or attempts to compromise any aspect of U.S. aviation security.”
“DFW and the FBI have a strong partnership that is focused on keeping our customers and employees safe and secure, and these arrests demonstrate how well we work together,” said DFW Airport Police Chief Charles Cinquemani. “There will always be people who attempt to access the airport for illegal activities, but we will remain vigilant by investing in security and collaboratively sharing information and resources with the FBI, TSA, Customs and Border Protection and other federal, state and local agencies.”