Baggage handler convicted of narcotics trafficking linked to Cayman Islands

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NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — A New Jersey man has been found guilty of conspiring to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine linked to the Cayman Islands.

It’s reported that Tyrone Woolaston, 35, also used a firearm “in furtherance of cocaine trafficking, in connection with a multi-year scheme to smuggle cocaine into the United States through Newark International Airport” in New Jersey.

A unanimous jury convicted Woolaston after a two-week trial before United States District Judge Robert W Sweet.

“As proven at trial, Tyrone Woolaston abused his position as an airline employee with secure access to restricted areas of Newark International Airport,” Berman said in a statement. “In reality, Woolaston was also a drug dealer, who smuggled large cocaine shipments through the airport and into the United States.

“To protect his drug-dealing operation, Woolaston possessed an arsenal of weapons, including a .40 calibre Glock pistol equipped with a laser sight,” he added.

“Thankfully, Woolaston now stands convicted and faces at least 15 years in prison,” said the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S Berman.

According to court documents and the evidence at trial, Woolaston was a lead baggage handler for a commercial airline at Newark Liberty International Airport.

It’s reported that from 2013 through February 2018, Woolaston conspired to smuggle shipments of cocaine into the United States.

The documents state that Woolaston abused his secure access to the restricted areas of the airport to remove suitcases containing shipments of multiple kilograms of cocaine from international flights, and smuggle them through the airport for distribution in the New York City area.

In 2017 and 2018, Berman said agents from the New Jersey Office of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), conducted an undercover operation to investigate cocaine smuggling at the airport.

As part of the investigation, Berman said a confidential source met with Woolaston to arrange a cocaine shipment, and that Woolaston agreed to bring a suitcase containing five kilograms of cocaine through the airport.

On February 10, 2018, Berman said “HSI agents placed a suitcase containing about five kilogram of sham cocaine on an international flight from the Cayman Islands to the airport”.

He said Woolaston was working on the tarmac when the flight arrived at the airport, adding that he “took possession of the suitcase and carried the sham cocaine shipment through the airport, evading customs screening”.

“The following day, Woolaston carried a .40 calibre Glock pistol, equipped with a laser sight, to deliver the sham cocaine to the confidential source,” Berman said.

He said Woolaston was convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of using a firearm in furtherance of narcotics trafficking, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

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