Two current and one former employee of Continental Airlines in Newark, NJ, have been arrested and charged with cocaine smuggling, authorities said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark said Yunior Lopez, 25, of Elizabeth, NJ, Amaurys Caminero, 29, of Linden, NJ, and Kerlwin Taveras, 27, of Bronx, NY were arrested Monday on charges of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine.
Lopez and Caminero were arrested at Newark Liberty International airport. Taveras, a former employee of Continental, was arrested in the Bronx, authorities said.
Officials allege the three were the northern connection of a smuggling operation that dated to at least March 17, 2009, when a shipment of 50 pounds of cocaine was seized after agents got a tip it would arrive at Newark via a Continental flight from the Dominican Republic.
That shipment was the first of five seized in the Dominican Republic or the United States, court documents show.
Rebeckah Carmichael, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to say how authorities were able to seize the drugs without alerting the suspects they were being watched.
The cocaine was hidden mostly in gym bags with handwritten baggage tags indicating they had been checked at the departure gate at Las Americas Airport in Santo Domingo, a criminal complaint says.
Typically, officials alleged, once the planes landed at Newark, Lopez, Caminero and others would arrange to remove the cocaine and take it from the airport to be distributed in New York and New Jersey.