PHOTO: A TSA Checkpoint in DFW Airport. (photo via Flickr/Grant Wickes)
Authorities in Puerto Rico busted a drug smuggling ring earlier this month which consisted of current and former Transportation Security Administration workers smuggling at least 20 tons of cocaine into the United States over the last two decades.
According to FoxNews.com, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez announced that 12 members of the drug ring had been arrested on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
Included in the arrests are TSA workers and airport employees who used their baggage screening clearances to allow an estimated $100 million worth of cocaine shipments to pass through security.
The smuggling ring allegedly began in 1998 when the suspects transported up to 15 kilograms of cocaine through Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan by using as many as five smugglers on each flight.
In total, the 18-year drug ring managed to get 20 tons of cocaine through security and into the U.S. before authorities busted the smuggling operation. Six current and former TSA employees who were security and baggage screeners have been charged, including José Cruz-Lopez, Luis Vazquez-Acevedo, Keila Carrasquillo, Carlos Rafael Adorno-Hiraldo, Antonio Vargas-Saavedra and Daniel Cruz-Echevarria.
Police have identified defendant Miguel Angel Perez-Rodriguez as the suspected cocaine supplier, and baggage handler Javier Ortiz as the man who took the cocaine-filled bags through security and placed them on their respective flights by paying TSA employees for their roles.
The suspects in the case face 10 years to life in prison if convicted.
“This investigation was initiated by TSA as part of its efforts to address employee misconduct and specific insider threat vulnerabilities,” federal security director for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Jose Baquero said in a statement. “TSA has zero tolerance for employees engaged in criminal activity to facilitate contraband smuggling.”