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DEA Busts Airport Drug Smuggling Ring

DEA officials recently arrested 36 people for their alleged involvement in a drug trafficking ring that smuggled cocaine into the United States through Puerto Rico's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport for over 12 years.

Three of the suspects were taken into custody in the United States; two were detained at Miami International Airport, while the other was grabbed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The majority of the suspects were arrested at the San Juan airport.

According to DEA officials, the 36 people recently arrested were part of a larger group of 45 persons indicted for smuggling over 61,000 pounds, or 28,000 kilograms, of cocaine from Puerto Rico to the United States since 1999. The majority of the U.S.-bound flights were headed to Miami, Orlando, and Newark, New Jersey.

The ring included several current and former employees of American Airlines and airport personnel, such as cargo or baggage handlers. The employees would use a designated bathroom to hand cocaine over to couriers who were boarding U.S.-bound flights. Cargo handlers would ensure that suitcases filled with drugs were placed on U.S. flights without any problems.

Puerto Rico appears to be prized by drug dealers because it is a midway point between South American countries and the United States. Unfortunately, the island of over four million U.S. citizens is known for being a conduit for illegal drug activity.

Drug trafficking, possession of cocaine and distribution of cocaine charges are serious offenses, and a person convicted of these crimes could face long prison terms and severe penalties. For example, a first degree felony drug trafficking conviction can lead to a minimum of three years in prison as well as a $25,000 fine. Penalties can rise depending upon the amount of drugs alleged to be involved. An experienced attorney can help those facing charges understand their rights and provide a vigorous defense.

Source: Reuters,"Arrests target Puerto Rico airport drug running ring," Tom Brown.

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