Police nab woman, 50 pellets of cocaine

Luisa Y. Gil, 21, who is from Union City, N.J., was arraigned yesterday morning in East Boston District Court on trafficking charges and ordered held on $200,000 cash bail. Luisa Y. Gil, 21, who is from Union City, N.J., was arraigned yesterday morning in East Boston District Court on trafficking charges and ordered held on $200,000 cash bail. (Ted Fitzgerald/Pool)
By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / February 8, 2011

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Even before her flight touched down Saturday in Boston, Luisa Y. Gil had drawn the attention of authorities because of her same-day flight reservation and her point of origin, the Dominican Republic.

When the 21-year-old arrived at Logan International Airport at 8 p.m., State Police questioned her. During the interview, she allegedly admitted that before her flight she had ingested 50 pellets containing cocaine.

Gil said she was paid $2,000, according to authorities. Together, the pellets contained about a half-kilogram of cocaine, with an estimated value of $50,000.

“It’s an incredibly dangerous endeavor, and she’s fortunate her health is intact,’’ said Jake Wark, spokesman for the Suffolk dis trict attorney’s office. “Unfortunately, she’s not alone in these actions by a long shot. There’s a tremendous amount of creativity at work in bringing narcotics into the country, and the health of the transporters is not important to the kingpins.’’

Gil, who is from Union City, N.J., told police that she had been a student but wasn’t currently enrolled in college. She said she was unemployed and coming to the United States to live with her aunt in Roxbury.

She said her cousin was picking her up at the airport. But prosecutors say Gil has no real ties to the Boston area and that the person who waited for her inside Terminal E was Daniel Rivera Valasquez, a man who later told authorities he was paid $500 to pick her up and take her to another man named “Ramon.’’ When troopers searched Valasquez, they found a photocopy of Gil’s passport, with her picture, in his shoe.

According to a police report, Valasquez said he grew worried as he waited inside the terminal, fearing he had been drawn into something illegal. He said he met Ramon at a restaurant in Roxbury three days earlier and that Ramon provided him with a cellphone and the photocopy. Valasquez is in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and faces deportation.

Wark declined to say whether authorities expect to make additional arrests.

Gil was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital after her arrest and later passed all 50 pellets, authorities said. She was arraigned yesterday morning in East Boston District Court on trafficking charges and ordered held on $200,000 cash bail.

In the courtroom yesterday, Gil rested her handcuffed arms atop a wooden partition and listened to a Spanish interpreter.

The defendant’s attorney, Anthony Lochiatto, said Gil was unaware that the pellets contained cocaine and that she “had a really minor role’’ in bringing the drugs to the United States.

“She had a task that actually put her at risk,’’ Lochiatto said during the arraignment. He said Gil doesn’t have a criminal record. Police in Union City said she has never been arrested there.

Authorities say traffickers have been using humans and animals as drug “mules’’ for decades. Because it is difficult to detect, police and customs officials rely on tips or flag travelers with “high-risk travel reservations.’’

“It’s not an uncommon way of trafficking,’’ said Anthony Pettigrew, a spokesman for the US Drug Enforcement Administration. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and they were doing it back then.’’

He referred to a case five years ago, when the DEA arrested 22 Colombians who used humans and puppies as mules to smuggle more than 24 kilograms of heroin into the United States, primarily the East Coast.

In December 2008, a 25-year-old woman died in a New Hampshire hotel of acute cocaine intoxication after ingesting rubber bags containing the drug. She and her twin sister, born in Puerto Rico, had visited the Dominican Republic, where they agreed to smuggle the drugs, according to authorities. The surviving sister underwent surgery to remove several bags containing cocaine.

Gil faces a minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted. She is scheduled to return to court Feb. 28 for a probable-cause hearing.

Brian R. Ballou can be reached at