Drug Enforcement Administration

Los Angeles

Special Agent in Charge, Special Agent in Charge

May 04, 2017

Contact: SA Kyle Mori

Phone Number: (213) 576-8310

Two Charged With Attempting To Smuggle Half A Million In Heroin Through LAX

LOS ANGELES - Two men were arrested Tuesday at Los Angeles International Airport and charged in federal court with attempting to smuggle heroin in luggage on two commercial airline flights.

Cristian Santos, 21, of Compton, California was arrested by special agents with the Drug Enforcement (DEA) after boarding a Delta Airlines flight.  DEA agents also arrested Joel Aron, 18, of Tijuana, Mexico, after he boarded a Hawaiian Airlines flight.  Both Santos and Aron appeared in court yesterday afternoon and are scheduled to next appear in district court in Los Angeles on June 8, 2017.

A criminal complaint filed yesterday alleges the narcotics were discovered in Santos’ luggage after he checked in for a flight bound for Indianapolis.  After seeing something suspicious in one of the bags during an image scan, the Transportation Security (TSA) inspected the bag, and discovered an item that resembled a flattened pillow wrapped with black electrical tape, which was concealed inside the inner layer of the luggage.  After a TSA Bomb Detection Officer determined that the package inside the bag was not an explosive, the TSA Officer used a box cutter to make an incision and examine the contents inside the package which resembled brown tar.  A subsequent test confirmed the presence of heroin.  It is alleged that the street value in Indiana of the heroin is $250,000.

Los Angeles Airport Police located Santos on his Delta Airlines flight, and escorted him off the airplane.  During a subsequent interview, Santos admitted to DEA special agents that the luggage belonged to him, and that he was working with other individuals in exchange for payment. 

A separate criminal complaint was filed yesterday morning alleging that narcotics were discovered in Aron’s luggage after he checked in for a flight bound for Honolulu, Hawaii.  After seeing something suspicious in one of the bags during an image scan, the TSA inspected the bag and discovered a “mass” at the bottom of the bag.  Again, after it was determined the “mass” was not an explosive, a TSA officer cut open the “mass,” and observed what appeared to be drugs inside.  The contents of the package tested positive for the presence of heroin with an alleged street value in Hawaii of $225,000.

Los Angeles Airport Police located Aron on his Hawaiian Airlines flight, and escorted him off the airplane.  During a subsequent interview, Aron admitted to DEA special agents that the luggage belonged to him, and that this was the fourth time that he had acted as a courier.  According to the complaint, Aron admitted that, each time he acted as a courier, he would cross the border from Mexico into the United States, and take a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles, California.  Once in Los Angeles, Aron would receive a bag, and would travel to Hawaii in order to deliver the bag to an unidentified male.  According to the complaint, Aron would receive $3,000 for each trip.

Both Santos and Aron are charged with possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance.  If convicted, each faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

The DEA Los Angeles International Airport Narcotics Task Force, an inter-agency task force based at LAX, is conducting this investigation.  The Task Force is charged with providing a coordinated law enforcement effort to target airport/airline internal criminal enterprises that use the aviation system to transport large amounts of illicit drugs throughout the United States, and throughout the world.

In addition to the DEA, the Task Force is made up of representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Airport Police, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  The Task Force also works closely with the United States Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.

The cases against Santos and Aron are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

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