Baggage handlers accused of moving drugs to Detroit

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Federal investigators said baggage handlers working for Delta Airlines conspired to smuggle drugs from airports in Houston and Jamaica to Detroit.

A total of 12 people have been arrested so far.Ten of them are current or former bag handlers.Two men, LaDale Callaway and Yohanis Watson, were arrested in Houston.

“Both Callaway and Watson were arrested with HSI Special Agents in the Houston area this morning,” said Brian Moskowitz, special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as I.C.E.

“This case involved the smuggling of significant amounts of cocaine and marijuana by two drug trafficking rings over a period of several years,” Moskowitz said.

One group is accused of smuggling pot and cocaine from Jamaica to Detroit. The Houston group is accused of smuggling pot. Federal Agents said the bag handlers would put the drugs in suitcases, mark them with either an “X” or tie something to the handle and then load the bags onto planes bound for Detroit.

Investigators said once in Michigan, the baggage handlers would know what to look for.

“All of the suitcases had a proper airline bag tag in the name of actual passengers,” said Moskowitz. “But the suitcases did not belong to the named passenger.”

Delta Airlines wouldn’t comment on the case, but issued a statement:

“We have fully cooperated with federal authorities in this matter. Delta does not tolerate employees found using their position for illegal activity and these employees have been suspended without pay. Additional disciplinary action could be taken pending the final outcome of the investigation.”

Authorities said this operation had been going on since January 2010. If convicted, those accused could face prison time and be forced to pay hefty fines.