Yesterday, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced the bust of two rings of airport workers based in Puerto Rico who they say smuggled thousands of kilos up and down the east coast, including into Miami and Orlando. The feds indicted 45 people with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and violations of the RICO statute. The two separate cases immediately brought to mind the infamous Ramp Rats scandal of 1999, when the DEA, U.S. Customs Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms busted 66 Miami International Airport employees, many of whom worked for American Airlines, for running an illegal cargo service for everything from marijuana to grenades.
In the latest round of drug smuggling airport workers, the feds allege one ring -- led by a woman named Maribel Rodriguez Fragoso, aka La Flaca -- was made up of workers of a baggage handling and maintenance company at San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, while the second ring was led by American Airlines employee Wilfredo Rodriguez Rosado, aka Pitin, who recruited co-workers to participate in his racket that lasted nine years.
The DEA alleges Fragoso's organization
, between 2010 until last month, transported yeyo in backpacks and suitcases that were handed to drug couriers who boarded flights bound for the continental United States. The airport workers would sneak the coke through secured entrances at the San Juan airport. Members of the criminal enterprise would also bring back large sums of drug money to Puerto Rico.
ran for close to a decade, transporting thousands of kilos from Puerto Rico to several American cities, including Miami and Orlando, on American Airlines flights. The indictment alleges that the ring would package coke inside suitcases that they loaded onto the cargo holds of airplanes bound for the U.S. Once the illegal cargo reached its destination, American Airlines workers in the other cities who were in on the scheme would unload the suitcases and make sure to tell the people who were picking up the illicit luggage where to find it on the conveyor belt.
DEA Deputy Administrator Thomas M. Harrigan said the arrests at one of the nation's busiest airports "reflects our relentless commitment to working with our partners to aggressively fight drug trafficking, not only at out nation's points of entry, but at source, transit, and arrival zones throughout the world."