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New York Flight Attendants Accused Of Smuggling Millions In Drug Money To Dominican Republic

New York Flight Attendants Accused Of Smuggling Millions In Drug Money To Dominican Republic
New York Flight Attendants Accused Of Smuggling Millions In Drug Money To Dominican Republic

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Four flight attendants from the New York City area have been accused of participating in a multimillion-dollar drug money smuggling operation which saw $8 million make its way to the Dominican Republic, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

The accused, identified as Jarol Fabio, 35, of New York City; Charlie Hernandez, 42, of West New York, New Jersey; Sarah Valerio Pujols, 42, of the Bronx; and Emmanuel Torres, 34, of Brooklyn, allegedly transported the funds over a span of several years, exploiting their positions as flight attendants to bypass the stringent security measures in place at JFK International Airport.

These flight attendants smuggled millions of dollars of drug money and law enforcement funds that they thought was drug money from the United States to the Dominican Republic over many years by abusing their privileges as airline employee[s],” stated U.S. Attorney Damien Williams. “Today’s charges should serve as a reminder to those who break the law by helping drug traffickers move their money that crime doesn’t pay.”

According to prosecutors, the scheme involved using their status as “Known Crewmembers”—a designation that allows flight crew members to undergo less rigorous security screenings—to smuggle large sums of cash without detection. This privilege, intended to streamline operations for crew members, became their tool for illegal activities.

Delta Airlines, where two of the defendants were employed, has been cooperative with the authorities following the revelation that security protocols meant to protect the passengers were systematically abused.

According to court documents, the detailed operation was exposed with the help of two cooperating witnesses, themselves previously arrested on money laundering charges. These witnesses played a pivotal role in unveiling the transactions that tied some of the smuggled funds to fentanyl sales, adding a dire public health dimension to the criminal activities.

In one incident, prosecutors detailed how Hernandez and Pujols divided over $120,000 in drug money in December 2019, with each taking their share on subsequent trips to the Dominican Republic. Such episodes illustrate the methodical approach taken to avoid detection while exploiting their roles within the airline industry.

If convicted, the penalties are severe. Torres and Fabio face up to 15 years in prison, Hernandez could see 20 years, and Pujols, facing an additional smuggling charge, could be sentenced to up to 25 years. These stiff potential sentences reflect the serious nature of their alleged crimes, which compromised airport security systems and endangered public trust in the safety of air travel.

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