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DOJ Charges Four Flight Attendants in Drug Money Smuggling Scheme

The Department of Justice has brought charges against four American flight attendants for allegedly using their positions to transport drug money to the Dominican Republic. The DOJ stated that the suspects worked for different airlines and utilized their special status with the Transportation Safety Administration to bypass security procedures and facilitate the smuggling of drug money out of New York.

The alleged scheme began three years ago and was reportedly discovered with the assistance of two unnamed witnesses cooperating with authorities. The four suspects, Charlie Hernandez, Sarah Valerio Pujols, Emmanuel Torres, and Carol Fabio, were arrested on charges such as operating an unlicensed money transmission business and violating security requirements at airports or on aircraft.

Pujols and Hernandez also face additional charges, including conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmission business and bulk cash smuggling allegations. If convicted, these charges could result in several years of imprisonment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York revealed that the suspects abused their “Known Crewmember” status with the TSA, allowing them to undergo less rigorous security screening than regular passengers.

The suspects are accused of transporting a total of $8 million to the Dominican Republic over the span of three years. Additionally, it was noted that some of the money stemmed from illicit fentanyl sales and had been laundered in New York City prior to its international transportation.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams condemned the actions of the accused flight attendants, stating that their alleged smuggling activities demonstrate that “crime doesn’t pay.” Moreover, the New York City Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations collaborated in uncovering the scheme, prompting HSI Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo to caution other airline personnel against abusing their authority for illicit purposes.

The consequences of these actions could have significant implications, and the DOJ’s efforts to safeguard against such criminal activities reflect the commitment to upholding the law and preserving the integrity of transportation security.

Written by Staff Reports

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