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Mechanic at JFK Airport convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine: Feds

May. 4, 2023 By Bill Parry

An American Airlines mechanic at JFK Airport was found guilty Tuesday by a federal jury in Brooklyn of trying to smuggle more than 25 pounds of cocaine after he was “caught red-handed” during a routine search in 2020.

Paul Belloisi, 55, of Hicksville, Long Island, was convicted following a one-week trial on all three counts of an indictment charging him with conspiring to possess, conspiring to import cocaine and importing cocaine.

As proven at trial, on Feb. 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 Customs and Border Patrol 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 officers 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.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “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.”

The multi-agency investigation serves as a “great example of collaborative law enforcement efforts to combat narcotics trafficking conspirators,” according to CBP Director of Field Operations Francis Russo.

The verdict followed a one-week trial before U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry and Belloisi faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Ivan Arvelo took exception with Belloisi circumventing airport security.

“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.”

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