Two guardsmen accused of smuggling drugs into U.S. on cargo plane
April 15, 2005
Two New York Air National Guard fliers were busted stepping off their C-5A Galaxy cargo plane at Stewart Air National Guard Base, N.Y., allegedly with nearly 300,000 ecstasy tablets stuffed into their luggage, according to law enforcement officials.
Pilot Capt. Franklin Rodriquez and loadmaster Master Sgt. John Fong, both with the 105th Airlift Wing, based at Stewart, were arrested Wednesday by federal narcotics agents, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The pair had flown April 8 from Stewart on a five-day logistics run through Europe, delivering training supplies to the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
Officials say Rodriquez and Fong packed 290,000 tablets of ecstasy — formally known as 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine — into their luggage while in their hotel room during a layover in Frankfurt, Germany.
The two have been charged with smuggling and conspiracy to distribute.
If convicted, each face a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.
“It is indeed unfortunate that while countless other members of the armed services are so selflessly risking and sacrificing their lives abroad in defense of their country, that these defendants chose to co-opt for their own personal gain needed defense resources to fill their own pockets and to poison our streets with dangerous drugs,” said U.S. Attorney David N. Kelley in statement, which praised Air National Guard officials for their assistance in the bust.
Agents said they found nearly 30 bags of ecstasy tablets — worth millions of dollars on the street — spread loaded across a backpack, a suitcase and two boxes of booze.
According to a sworn statement by Drug Enforcement Agency agent James Enders, Rodriquez confessed to multiple smuggling trips aboard military flights as well as distributing the pills from his apartment in the Bronx. Fong admitted to several smuggling trips with Rodriquez and dropping all the pills at Rodriguez’s home, saying he’d been paid $10,000 each time, according to Enders’ statement.
New York National Guard officials have been working closely with federal and military investigators, said Guard spokesman Kent Kisselbrack.
“The 105th is a highly respected unit,” said Kisselbrack. “We have zero tolerance for any illegal behavior.”
He said it was too early to say whether additional guardsman might be charged.