Over 25 Pounds of Cocaine Recovered from External Compartment of Jetliner at John F. Kennedy International Airport
Last week, Paul Belloisi, an American Airlines mechanic at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport), was arraigned via teleconference before United States Chief Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak on an indictment charging him with conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to import cocaine and importation of cocaine. Belloisi was arrested on February 5, 2020, released on a $300,000 bond and indicted by a grand jury in Central Islip, New York on June 18, 2020.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), and Troy Miller, Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, New York Field Office (CBP), announced the charges.
According to court filings, on February 4, 2020, shortly after American Airlines flight 1349 arrived at JFK Terminal 8 from Montego Bay, Jamaica, a routine search by CBP officers who are members of the JFK Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team revealed approximately 11.594 kilograms (25.56 pounds) of cocaine bricks concealed behind an insulation blanket in an external mechanical compartment beneath the aircraft. CBP officers and HSI special agents then began visual surveillance of the aircraft from a distance. Shortly before the aircraft was scheduled to depart, Belloisi was observed approaching the aircraft and entering the compartment where the cocaine had been hidden. The officers confronted Belloisi after he exited the compartment and observed evidence that Belloisi had handled the area where the cocaine bricks were discovered. Belloisi also had carried an empty tool bag to the aircraft and had cutouts in the lining of his jacket, which together were sufficiently large to hold the bricks of cocaine that had been in the compartment.
“As alleged, this airline mechanic abused his position as a trusted employee and his access to sensitive areas of JFK Airport to participate in the clandestine importation of cocaine,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “These charges will serve as a warning that federal law enforcement authorities remain vigilant in protecting the security of our borders and fighting the scourge of international narcotics trafficking. Those who attempt to poison our communities by smuggling drugs through our ports of entry will be held accountable.”
“As alleged, Belloisi was the ‘inside man’, moving more than 25 pounds of cocaine from Jamaica to New York,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “HSI and CBP’s joint efforts continue to stem these threats to our aviation industry by which perpetuate the international movement of contraband through our airports. HSI will continue to persistently investigate and dismantle these criminal enterprises working with our law enforcement and airline partners.”
“This internal conspiracy case serves as a great example of collaborative law enforcement efforts to combat those that would compromise their access to restricted space and equipment, while aiding international narcotics trafficking conspirators. U.S. Customs and Border Protection thanks our partners at HSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, for their continued cooperation,” stated CBP Director of Field Operations Miller.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Belloisi faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Section. Assistant United States Attorney Robert M. Pollack is in charge of the prosecution.