Federal Prosecutors Charge Flight Attendants With Smuggling Millions In Drug Money

Four flight attendants have been charged with operating an unlicensed money transmission business and violating airport security requirements after allegedly exploiting their special clearance with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to smuggle approximately $8 million in drug-related proceeds out of the United States.

The suspects, identified as Charlie Hernandez, 42, Sarah Valerio Pujols, 42, Emmanuel Torres, 34, and Jarol Fabio, 35, allegedly took advantage of the Known Crewmember Program (KCM), which allows airline employees to bypass airport security with less scrutiny. According to the criminal complaint, the defendants knowingly smuggled large amounts of illicit money linked to the sale of narcotics, including fentanyl, and received a small cut of each shipment.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams stated, “As alleged, these flight attendants smuggled millions of dollars of drug money and law enforcement funds that they thought was drug money from the United States to the Dominican Republic over many years by abusing their privileges as airline employees.”

The investigation, led by Homeland Security Investigations and the NYPD, began in 2018 and uncovered critical vulnerabilities in the airline security industry. If convicted, the defendants face up to 15 years in prison, with Hernandez and Pujols facing additional charges that could increase their maximum sentences to 20 and 25 years, respectively.

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