US says Detroit airport drug ring broken

Associated Press / April 29, 2011

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DETROIT — Baggage handlers working for Delta Air Lines Inc. conspired to smuggle drugs to Detroit from airports in Houston and Jamaica, authorities said yesterday as criminal complaints were unsealed against 12 people.

The handlers were paid to ensure that certain suitcases were steered away from international baggage belts and placed in carousels from domestic arriving flights, Homeland Security agent Kurt Fiegel said in a court filing. The bags were marked with a red “X’’ or had plastic bags or plastic ties on the handle, he said.

Ten of the 12 people charged were former or current Delta baggage handlers, said Brian Moskowitz, head of investigations in Michigan for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

At a news conference, Moskowitz said the smuggling appeared to have occurred over a “period of several years,’’ but he declined to indicate the total amount of drugs that entered the United States from Jamaica.

The investigation began in January 2010 at the airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica, when 53 pounds of marijuana was discovered in a suitcase bound for Detroit, Fiegel said.

When Northwest Airlines flight 2321 landed in Detroit, authorities seized five suitcases with 284 pounds of marijuana and 35 pounds of cocaine, the agent said.

“A shipment of this size had almost no chance of successful entry to the United States’’ if it had gone through the typical inspection process, Fiegel said in an affidavit filed to support the drug charges.

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