DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Four baggage handlers at San Diego International Airport have been charged with plotting to smuggle drugs onto airplanes for delivery across the country, including in Michigan.
The U.S. attorney's office says Felix Samuel Garcia, Paulo Mendez Perez, Saul Bojorquez and Brian Alberto Gonzalez were indicted by a federal jury on Friday on charges of conspiracy and possessing cocaine and methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The men could face 10 years to life in prison if convicted.
"This was a brazen scheme to smuggle drugs right under the noses of airport security officials," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. "We aren't going to let dangerous drugs fly in unchecked bags in the overhead bins of commercial aircraft."
Authorities say the four men worked for Delta Global Services, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines that provides ground services for airlines.
According to the indictment, Garcia, Perez and Bojorquez would flash their security badges to smuggle drugs through screening checkpoints in backpacks. The men would then meet up with couriers, like Gonzalez, in an airport bathroom and pass the drugs under restroom stalls.
Authorities say the couriers then boarded flights for New York, Nashville, Detroit, Baltimore and Hawaii, where the drugs would be delivered to members of local drug trafficking organizations. While the street price of methamphetamine in San Diego is about $5,000 a pound, the value skyrockets to $25,000 a pound in Hawaii, authorities said.
During the year-long probe, agents seized 17 pounds of cocaine, 18 pounds of methamphetamine and $103,846 in cash.
Seven other men are charged with taking part in the scheme: Sergio Mejia-Gamboa, Angel Ortega, David Camacho, Jesus Morales, Israel Acosta, Henry Garcia-Arambula, and Candelario Perez. All but one man have been arrested.
All 11 defendants, who range in age from 21 to 48, live in California.
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