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Thursday, June 8, 2023

American Airlines Mechanic Convicted of Conspiring to Import Cocaine Bricks in Compartment Under Cockpit of Jetliner

Officers found 10 bricks of cocaine weighing 25.56 pounds hidden inside an electronics compartment on the underside of the cockpit.

Today, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Paul Belloisi, an American Airlines mechanic at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport), of all three counts of an indictment charging him with conspiring to possess cocaine, conspiring to import cocaine, and importing cocaine.  The verdict followed a one-week trial before United States District Judge Dora L. Irizarry.  When sentenced, Belloisi faces up to 20 years in prison.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), and Francis J. Russo, Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, New York Field Office (CBP), announced the verdict.

“As proven, the defendant was caught red-handed trying to facilitate the smuggling of a large stash of cocaine hidden in an electronics compartment of the aircraft.” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “This corrupt airline mechanic not only abused his position of trust and undermined the security of a vital border crossing in our district, but was also willing to potentially endanger the safety of travelers as well as the community.”

“Not only did Belloisi violate the law by conspiring to traffic cocaine into the United States, but he used his trusted position as an American Airlines mechanic at JFK International Airport to facilitate his criminal activity,” said HSI New York Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo. “Cocaine addiction is a serious problem throughout the country due in large part to the traffickers who place profit above the safety of others. HSI is committed to working with law enforcement partners to identify, arrest and prosecute those responsible for importing illicit drugs into the United States.”

“This case serves as a great example of collaborative law enforcement efforts to combat international narcotics trafficking conspirators. U.S. Customs and Border Protection thanks our partners at HSI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their continued cooperation,” stated CBP Director of Field Operations Russo.

As proven at trial, on February 4, 2020, American Airlines flight 1349 arrived at JFK Airport’s Terminal 8 from Montego Bay, Jamaica.  The aircraft was selected for a routine search by CBP officers from the JFK Airport Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team.  The officers found 10 bricks of cocaine weighing 25.56 pounds hidden inside an electronics compartment on the underside of the cockpit.  The cocaine was replaced with fake bricks and sprayed with a substance that glows when illuminated with a special light.  CBP officers and HSI special agents placed the aircraft under surveillance from a distance and shortly before it was scheduled to take off for its next flight, they observed Belloisi drive up and pull himself inside the electronics compartment.  Belloisi was confronted by law enforcement who observed his gloves glowing under the black light indicating he had handled the fake bricks.  Belloisi was also carrying an empty tool bag and the lining of his jacket had cutouts sufficiently large enough to hold the bricks.  The cocaine found in the aircraft had a street value of approximately $285,000 to $320,000.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics & Money Laundering Section.  Assistant United States Robert Pollack and Margaret Schierberl are in charge of the prosecution with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Sophia Cronin.

Read more at the Justice Department

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