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Two men, one an employee of the Philadelphia International Airport, have been charged with smuggling cocaine into the United States from drug trafficking connections in the Dominican Republic to the airport.
Jose Rodriguez, a 25-year-old baggage handler at the Philadelphia International Airport, and 35-year-old Edwin Fernandez, who had ties to drug traffickers in the Dominican Republic, partnered up for a cocaine trafficking conspiracy that lasted from December 2011 to July 2012.
They worked with a cocaine distribution center based in Santo Domingo and even recruited other employees of the airport to help them for large amounts of cash. According to Philly.com the traffickers from the Dominican Republic would notify the two men once they had loaded the duffel bags of drugs onto a plane. Once the bags arrived, they got them past Customs and Border Protection by moving the bags from international baggage claims to the domestic baggage claim belts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen McCartney explained how their conspiracy worked.
"They were basically non descript Nike duffel bags, new, unused, which was the way to tell which bag you were looking for if you were the one off loading from the plane," McCartney said, Fox Philly reports. "Then you can basically just walk out of the airport with them rather than going through customs and having them inspected. We have evidence to show he paid one employee $25,000.”
In January 2012, three of their duffel bags couldn’t be brought to a domestic baggage claim because CBP officials were present and closely monitoring the international baggage.
The duffel bag that they found had 46 pounds of cocaine in it.
Rodriguez and Fernandez are now being charged with conspiracy to import cocaine, importation of cocaine, attempted importation of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
They will both serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and if convicted they could serve up to life in prison.