Flight Attendants Charged in US-Dominican Republic Smuggling Scheme

Flight Attendants Charged in US-Dominican Republic Smuggling Scheme

(USNewsBreak.com) – Flight attendants typically don’t go through as much security as the average traveler. Airline companies bestow a lot of trust in their employees, hoping they abide by the rules. However, there are always some rotten eggs. In New York, authorities have arrested four flight attendants on suspicion of smuggling money between New York and the Dominican Republic.

In a press release dated Wednesday, May 8, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced the arrests of four flight attendants who were allegedly committing “various offenses in connection with their years-long participation in smuggling narcotics trafficking proceeds […] on commercial flights.” The Justice Department (DOJ) identified them as Jarol Fabio, Charlie Hernandez, Emmanuel Torres, and Sarah Valerio Pujols.

Several international airlines that routinely flew between New York and the Dominican Republic employed the four airline workers. They had special security clearance with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), known as “Known Crewmember” status (KCM). Their special status allowed the attendants to pass through a crew-only security lane without the typical security scrutiny most passengers receive. Through this measure, they allegedly moved large sums of cash. In total, the DOJ has accused them of smuggling more than $8 million.

A cooperating witness who operated a large money laundering organization in New York City spoke with authorities after their arrest. The person revealed that to carry out operations, they corrupted flight attendants, whom they paid a percentage of the money they moved. Between this witness and another one, Homeland Security Investigations completed several sting operations to catch the flight attendants in action.

Prosecutors have charged each of the four with a single count of operation of an unlicensed money transmission business and one count of violating security requirements while entering an airport or aircraft area. Authorities also charged Hernandez and Pujols with an additional count of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmission business. Pujols is also facing a charge of bulk cash smuggling. If convicted, Pujols faces up to 25 years, Hernandez 20 years, and the remaining two suspects each face 15 years.

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