Baggage handlers indicted in drug smuggling ring that reached Honolulu

Four baggage handlers at San Diego International Airport have been indicted for allegedly running a drug smuggling ring through several cities, including Honolulu.

According to an indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Felix Samuel Garcia, Paulo Mendez Perez and Saul Bojorquez were all current or former employees of Delta Global Services, which provides ground services for several airlines. They would meet drug couriers in terminal restrooms and transfer the drugs under stalls. Brian Alberto Gonzalez, also a DGS employee, allegedly worked as a courier.

“They would use their security cards either to enter from the terminal when they were working or when they weren’t working,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat. “They would enter through the ticket counter area and thus they were not subject to search.”

Also charged were seven alleged couriers, drug suppliers and middlemen. After the bathroom rendezvous, the couriers would board flights and proceed to destinations like New York City, Nashville, Detroit, Baltimore and Honolulu, where they were met by other members of the drug trafficking organization.

“This was a brazen scheme to smuggle drugs right under the noses of airport security officials,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “We aren’t going to let dangerous drugs fly in unchecked bags in the overhead bins of commercial aircraft.”

The indictment is believed to be the first federal drug prosecution of airport employees at San Diego’s largest airport.

As part of the drug ring, investigators say 18 pounds of crystal methamphetamine were sent to Honolulu. Cocaine was also sent to Nashville and New York City.

“Throughout this investigation, DEA San Diego’s Narcotic Task Force worked closely with law enforcement counterparts nationwide, including airport authorities, to ensure the successful apprehension and dismantlement of this drug trafficking organization,” said DEA San Diego Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gary Hill. “All agencies involved understand how important the security protocols of our airports are, and will continue to work together to formulate plans to thwart other criminal elements from exploiting and circumventing airport security in the future.”

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