An attorney for a longtime American Airlines employee accused of smuggling cocaine into the U.S. says prosecutors have the right intention, but the wrong guy.
Paul Belloisi, a mechanic with the airline, was arrested and indicted last month for using his access to secure areas of an airport to help smuggle the drugs, according to CNN.
The charges include conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to import cocaine and importation of cocaine.
“He was going about his official duties as an airline mechanic,” attorney David Besso said of Belloisi, a native of Long Island, New York, who has worked for the airline for 30 years. “Somehow the government had planted scam cocaine in the plane, which he said wasn’t supposed to be there and went over and touched it and they arrested him.”
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Customs and Border Patrol officer planted fake cocaine in a plane that arrived at
John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York from Jamaica on February 4 after discovering 10 bricks of the real thing hidden behind a blanket in a compartment underneath the plane’s cockpit.
The logic was, whoever comes for the cocaine is the culprit. So they put an electronic device in the compartment that would send a radio signal if the area around the fake bricks was disturbed. They also sprayed the blanket and bricks with a substance that, if touched, would illuminate under an ultraviolet light was shined on someone’s hands.
As the plane was being boarded for its next flight, authorities saw Belloisi enter the compartment, and the electronic device sent a signal to the officers, according to the complaint.
Belloisi’s gloved hands lit up when placed under the light, and officers said he was also found with an empty tool bag and holes cut into the inside of his jacket – a common practice among smugglers to hide the cocaine.
Belloisi was released on bond.
“As alleged, this airline mechanic abused his position as a trusted employee and his access to sensitive areas of JFK Airport to participate in the clandestine importation of cocaine,” said United States Attorney Richard Donoghue in a statement.
It’s certainly not the first time somebody has tried to smuggle coke and it won’t be the last. Not even by the good guys — earlier this year, a CBP official was busted for allegedly trying to sneak 40 pounds of cocaine through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Belloisi has been suspended by American Airlines until an outcome is reached.
“At American we have an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our customers and team members,” a spokesperson told CNN. “We take this matter very seriously and continue to cooperate with law enforcement throughout their investigation.”
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