Six people have been arrested for importing narcotics from Ecuador concealed in empanadas, chocolate bars, and other foods, through privately-owned parcel delivery companies across the tri-state area.
The group's leader, Jorge Guerrero, has also been charged with grand larceny conspiracy for stealing from airline passengers while working as a driver for American Distributors, a private company that delivers lost luggage from JFK and LaGuardia Airports.
Tuesday morning's arrests were part of a six-month wiretap investigation by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and Homeland Security Investigations' JFK Narcotics Smuggling Unit.
Over the past three months, agents intercepted more than 11 pounds of narcotics from a warehouse at JFK Airport and private parcel delivery companies in New Jersey. Cocaine and heroin were found hidden inside various packaged foods marked with brand names. A stack of scuba diving diplomas dipped in liquid cocaine were also seized.
Investigators said the illicit packages were shipped to JFK on commercial cargo planes from Guayaquil, Ecuador and then distributed to parcel delivery companies with locations in Corona, Queens, Newark, N.J., Peekskill, N.Y., Ossining, N.Y. and Danbury, Conn. The packages were then picked up and distributed by Guerrero or other members of the drug trafficking ring.
Guerrero is also accused of going through the lost bags he was hired to transport and removing items he believed he could resell, including computers, iPads, jewelry, designer handbags and clothing.
"Whether using access to international cargo to profit from Ecuador’s bargain wholesale prices for narcotics, or pilfering designer underwear from personal luggage, the Guerrero organization rarely overlooked an opportunity to earn a dishonest dollar," said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan in a release. "Homeland Security continues to vigilantly protect ports of entry, and work closely with us on local issues such as narcotics importation and organized larceny rings.”
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