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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
November 25, 2003

For Further Information:
Contact: Elizabeth Jordan
(212) 620-4930

Massive Narcotics Importation Conspiracy At JFK Airport Exposed -- 25 Defendants Charged, Including 21 Airport Employees

Special Agent in Charge Anthony P. Placido today announced the execution of five search warrants and the arrest of twenty-three defendants, including one former and 19 current airport employees -- baggage and 2 cargo handlers and their supervisors at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and one current employee at Miami International Airport, in a massive narcotics importation conspiracy. To date, as part of the 14-month investigation, federal agents have seized more than 400 kilograms of cocaine and hundreds of pounds of marihuana arriving at JFK on board international flights, predominately from Guyana and Jamaica.

Special Agent in Charge Placido stated: "The basis of this investigation and it's success is the result of sustaining partnerships within the law enforcement community on all levels. I would like to thank the Drug Enforcement Administration's Port of Spain Trinidad Country Office for the essential assistance rendered during the early stages of this investigation."

The joint investigation leading to today's charges and arrests was conducted under the auspices of the United States Department of Justice Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Twenty-three defendants were arrested this morning, and five search warrants were executed. Agents seized approximately $500,000 in cash, five handguns, and four vehicles, including two late-model BMWs and a Mercedes Benz. The defendants arrested in New York earlier today have their initial appearances scheduled this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom, at the U. S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.

U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskoph (EDNY) addresses NY Press

According to the complaint, the defendants capitalized on their status as airport employees to circumvent inspection procedures as a means to import massive quantities of narcotics into the United States. Utilizing their knowledge of international airline schedules, cargo unloading procedures and airline personnel assignments, the defendants and their associates conducted a decade-long narcotics importation ring. The corrupt airport employees routinely gained unrestricted access to arriving international cargo and passenger flights, where they were able to take possession of large shipments of narcotics, divert them to "safe" areas for later pick-up and distribution, and avoid all forms of border inspection. As a result of their long 3 term success and ability to act with virtual impunity, the defendants were entrusted by the organization with handling extraordinarily large shipments of narcotics -- as much as 185 kilograms of cocaine at a time -- secreted within the interior of the planes, as well as the luggage and cargo stored on board arriving international flights. The 185 kilogram seizure is one of the largest single seizures of cocaine ever made at JFK Airport.

The government's investigation began in October 2002, following several seizures of cocaine on Universal Airlines flights from Guyana by ICE agents and inspectors of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. Thereafter, ICE and Port Authority Police established periodic surveillance of Universal Airlines flights, leading to the arrest of an airport employee caught diverting luggage containing approximately 17 kilograms of cocaine. Following his arrest, the employee cooperated with law enforcement and made a series of recorded telephone calls to ERROLDO WEATHERLY, a baggage handler working for Evergreen Eagle at JFK, during which the two discussed recent narcotics importation. These recorded conversations led to the ensuing investigation, which included court-authorized interception of wire communications over numerous telephones used by WEATHERLY, MICHAEL ADAMS, a baggage handler employed by Globe Ground North American, assigned to British Airways at JFK, TYRONE BROWNE, a former JFK employee, and GARY LALL, a baggage handler employed by American Airlines at JFK.

With the benefit of the wire interceptions, law enforcement was able to intercept multiple shipments of controlled substances at JFK, while continuing to investigate the activities of the organization. As detailed in the complaint, the seizures included 25 kilograms of marihuana hidden in a suitcase (September 14, 2003), 185 kilograms of cocaine secreted within three boxes in the cargo section of an arriving international flight (September 20, 2003), 77 kilograms of marihuana found in unclaimed luggage (October 5, 2003), nearly seven pounds of marihuana located in a baggage container (October 7, 2003), 77 pounds of marihuana concealed in luggage (October 13, 2003), 16.5 kilograms of cocaine packed in a gym bag (October 24, 2003), and 11 kilograms of cocaine in the front galley of a North American Airlines flight, buried under bags of ice (November 4, 2003).

Throughout the investigation, law enforcement intercepted conversations by the defendants discussing the details of incoming drug shipments. For example, prior to the September 20, 2003, seizure of 185 kilograms of cocaine, monitoring agents intercepted several telephone conversations in which BROWNE directed ADAMS to the boxes containing the drugs: "Let me give you the information . . . It's there on a . . . palette . . . 1, 2 and 3, man? . . . And, ahh, on the corner . . . He said the upper left . . . Right on it, it is written in a pink marker JJ123." ADAMS relayed the information to WEATHERLY, who was in charge of coordinating the defendants' ground crew. Several hours later, a Universal Airlines flight arrived at JFK from Guyana, and inside the cargo section of the plane federal agents located three boxes on a pallette. packed with cocaine, one of which was marked exactly as BROWNE had described it to ADAMS. That cocaine has a street value of approximately $23 million.

The defendants are charged with a conspiracy to import controlled substances. If convicted, each faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a $4 million fine.1 The government's case is being prosecuted by The United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York..

The Defendants

Name: MICHAEL ADAMS, also known as "Big Man"
and "Bowser"
DOB: 09/20/71
Residence: 116-26 222 Street
Cambria Heights, New York
Employer: Globe Ground North American (Baggage Handler)

Name: ERROLDO WEATHERLY, also known as "Junior"
and "Dapper"
DOB: 04/06/79
Residence: 672 Remsen Avenue
Brooklyn, New York
Employer: Evergreen Eagle (Baggage Handler)

Name: TYRONE BROWNE, also known as "T"
DOB: 08/06/69
Residence: 11 Belvedere Lane
Palm Coast, Florida
Employer: Former employee of Hudson General

Name: GARY LALL, also known as "Indian"
DOB: 02/15/73
Residence: 39-01 Healy Avenue
Far Rockaway, New York
Employer: American Airlines (Baggage Handler).7

DOB: 12/29/74
Residence: 380 Rockaway Parkway
Brooklyn, New York
Employer: Evergreen Eagle (Crew Chief/Supervisor of Baggage Handlers)

DOB: 11/16/62
Residence: 120-27 193 Street
St. Albans, New York
Employer: Evergreen Eagle (Warehouse Manager)

DOB: 09/08/62
Residence: 172-45 128 Street
Jamaica, New York
Employer: Swissport USA (Baggage Handler)

DOB: 09/10/67
Residence: 210-38 Nashville Boulevard
Cambria Heights, New York
Employer: American Airlines (Baggage Handler) and Evergreen Eagle

Name: TERON FOSTER, also known as "Ron"
DOB: 09/04/73
Residence: Florida
DOB: 10/05/67
Residence: 259-37 148 Road
Rosedale, New York

DOB: 09/22/76
Residence: 100-47 223 Street
Queens Village, New York
Employer: Evergreen Eagle (Baggage Handler).8

DOB: 07/01/67
Residence: Florida
Employer: American Airlines (Baggage Handler)

DOB: 10/03/67
Residence: 75 Ocean Avenue
Brooklyn, New York
Employer: American Airlines (Baggage Handler)

DOB: 03/30/58
Residence: 1669 Lewis Road
Merrick, New York
Employer: American Airlines (Baggage Handler)

DOB: 02/07/70
Residence: 180-22 144 Avenue
Jamaica, New York
Employer: Flying Foods (Food and Beverage Services)

Name: RICHARD PITCHER, also known as "Rags"
DOB: 08/01/65
Residence: 2801 Dover Street
Piscataway, New Jersey

DOB: 04/01/64
Residence: 124-23 193 Street
Springfield Gardens, New York

DOB: 04/03/73
Residence: 189-31 113 Avenue
St. Albans, New York

DOB: 07/23/67
Residence: 185 Oak Street
West Hempstead, New York
Employer: American Airlines (Baggage Handler).9

DOB: 11/29/68
Residence: 385 Bedford Avenue
Uniondale, New York
Employer: American Airlines (Baggage Handler)

DOB: 06/15/70
Residence: 145-67 176 Street
St. Albans, New York
Employer: Flying Foods (Food and Beverage Services)

DOB: 03/04/77
Residence: 1477 E. 85 Street
Brooklyn, New York
Employer: Evergreen Eagle (Cargo/Baggage Handler)

DOB: 11/20/71
Residence: 121-42 Grayson Street
Springfield Gardens, New York
Employer: Delta Airlines

DOB: 11/24/52
Residence: 243-43 145 Avenue
Rosedale, New York
Employer: United Airlines

DOB: 07/26/78
Residence: 202 E. 34 Street
Brooklyn, New York
Employer: Evergreen (Cargo/Baggage Handler)


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