MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT—A Queens lost-luggage handler was charged Tuesday with leading a drug-smuggling ring that managed to sneak food stuffed with cocaine and heroin from Ecuador through John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to authorities.
Jorge Guerrero, 39, his wife, Cecilia Guerrero, 33, and four others were indicted for importing the drugs through privately-owned parcel delivery companies in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The cocaine and heroin were stashed in foods like empanadas and chocolate bars, prosecutors said, adding that some liquid cocaine was even soaked into scuba diving diplomas.
Guerrero, a driver for American Distributors — a company that handles lost luggage delivery for numerous airlines at both JFK and LaGuardia Airports — was also hit with grand larceny conspiracy for stealing and reselling jewelry, clothes, electronics and other valuables from the airline passengers' bags he was being paid to return.
Authorities were able to bust the ring after a six-month wire-tap investigation by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and Homeland Security Investigations’ JFK Narcotics Smuggling Unit.
Investigators said they caught Guerrero speaking with an Ecuadorian contact about the drug transport.
Over the past three months, authorities said they intercepted five packages containing more than 11 pounds of narcotics at a warehouse at JFK and at private parcel delivery companies in New Jersey.
The drugs were shipped on commercial cargo planes that flew direct from Guayaquil, Ecuador to JFK Airport. Once at JFK, the packages, which prosecutors said looked like brand name goods headed to retail stores, were brought to the warehouse and then distributed to parcel delivery companies.
That's when Guerro, his wife or one of the other traffickers would pick up the drug-ladden packages, prosecutors claimes.
Riqui Perez, 47, of The Bronx; Noe Fernandez, 28, of Brooklyn; Judy Campos, 28, of Staten Island; and Luis Amable Caisa Altamirano, 52, of Queens were also charged in connection with the drug scheme.
"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," Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in a statement.