Feds: Flight Attendants Smuggled $8M in Drug Money

They allegedly abused access to fast lane at JFK Airport
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2024 4:55 AM CDT
4 Flight Attendants Accused of Smuggling Drug Money
Delta Air Lines jets parked at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Four flight attendants who worked on routes to the Dominican Republic from New York's JFK Airport allegedly abused their easy route through security by smuggling millions of dollars to the Caribbean country. Federal prosecutors say the flight attendants had access to the Known Crewmember fast lane, which allowed them to "bypass airport security with large quantities of cash without that cash being seized," NBC News reports. Authorities say the cash was linked to the sale of narcotics, including fentanyl, and the flight attendants took a cut of $1,000 or $2,000 from every $60,000 they smuggled.

Authorities say the flight attendants smuggled a total of around $8 million between 2014 and last year. Charlie Hernandez, Sarah Valerio Pujols, Emmanuel Torres, and Jarol Fabio were arrested on Tuesday. They face felony charges of operating an unlicensed money transmission business and violating airport security requirements, Fox News reports. Hernandez and Pujols also face conspiracy charges. According to an indictment, the arrests followed a years-long investigation of a money laundering ring. Prosecutors said a confidential informant who had been working with Homeland Security gave the attendants cash to smuggle to the Dominican Republic, reports CBS News.

Under the Known Crewmember program, airline employees cleared by the TSA can pass through checkpoints without being X-rayed. "This investigation has exposed critical vulnerabilities in the airline security industry and has illuminated methods that narcotics traffickers are utilizing," Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo said in a statement. NBC reports that Delta has confirmed that two of the attendants were its employees. The airline says it is fully cooperating with the investigation.

(More flight attendants stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.