MAR 17 (SAN DIEGO) - Four baggage handlers at San Diego International Airport were indicted by a federal grand jury Friday on charges that they conspired to smuggle cocaine and methamphetamine onto aircraft by exploiting their ability to pass unchecked through security screening areas. It’s believed to be the first federal drug prosecution of airport employees at San Diego’s largest airport. The indictment alleges that Felix Samuel Garcia, Paulo Mendez Perez and Saul Bojorquez, all current or former employees of Delta Global Services, which provides ground services for several airlines, flashed two badges numerous times and walked through checkpoints with drugs in their backpacks. Brian Alberto Gonzalez, also a DGS employee, allegedly worked as a courier. According to the indictment, the drug-toting baggage handlers connected with drug couriers during clandestine meetings in airport restrooms in the secured area of Terminal 2, where they would wait for adjoining stalls to become available and once inside, would hand off the cocaine and methamphetamine under the stalls’ divider.
Also charged were seven alleged couriers, drug suppliers and middlemen. After the bathroom rendezvous, the couriers would board flights and proceed to destinations like New York City, Nashville, Detroit, Baltimore and Hawaii, where they were met by other members of the drug trafficking organization. While the street price of methamphetamine in San Diego is about $5,000 a pound, the value skyrockets to $25,000 a pound in Hawaii.
“Throughout this investigation, DEA San Diego’s Narcotic Task Force worked closely with law enforcement counterparts nationwide, including airport authorities, to ensure the successful apprehension and dismantlement of this drug trafficking organization,” said DEA San Diego Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gary Hill. “All agencies involved understand how important the security protocols of our airports are, and will continue to work together to formulate plans to thwart other criminal elements from exploiting and circumventing airport security in the future.”
The alleged traffickers charged in the indictment include Sergio Mejia-Gamboa, Angel Ortega, David Camacho, Jesus Morales, Candelario Perez, Israel Acosta and Henry Garcia-Arambula. All were arrested last week during sweeps by federal agents. All defendants are in custody but Ortega.
The following defendants are scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruben B. Brooks: Garcia; Mejia-Gambo; Camacho; Morales; Acosta and Gonzalez. According to a complaint, agents seized 8 kilograms (17 pounds) of cocaine with an estimated street value of $144,000; 18 pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $90,000 in San Diego and up to $450,000 in Hawaii; and $103,846 in cash during the yearlong investigation.
DEFENDANTS Case Number 14cr0657
Felix Samuel Garcia Age: 29 Imperial Beach, CA
Paulo Mendez Perez Age: 36 Chula Vista, CA
Sergio Mejia-Gambo Age: 22 San Bernadino, CA
Angel Ortega Age: 26 San Bernadino, CA
David Camacho Age: 27 San Bernadino, CA
Jesus Morales Age: 21 San Bernadino , CA
Candelario Perez Age: 24 Fresno, CA
Israel Acosta Age: 48 San Bernadino, CA
Brian Alberto Gonzalez Age: 30 San Diego, CA
Saul Bojorquez Aviles Age: 26 Chula Vista, CA
Henry Garcia-Arambula Age: 22 San Berndino, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy to Possess Controlled Substances with Intent to Distribute – Title 21, U.S.C., Section 846 and 841 (a) (1); Maximum Penalties: 20 years in prison Possession of Cocaine and Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute – Title 21, U.S.C., Section 841 (a) (1); Maximum Penalties: 10 years to life in prison.