Fourteen men and women are learning a hard lesson after allegedly smuggling illegal drugs into New Orleans on several commercial flights from California into Louis Armstrong International Airport, reports The Times-Picayune.
The 14 defendants (several of which are Black) are accused of selling those drugs locally and bribing commercial airline employees to get the loot into New Orleans.
Prosecutors alleged that the drug ring had a “distinct hierarchy,” as well as the following:
“The methods used by this smuggling ring have compromised the physical safety of every passenger on a commercial airline flight within the United States in airports in which they have successfully secured the cooperation of government, government subcontractor or airline personnel,” according to the indictment.
On a routine basis, the men and women smuggled anywhere between 10 and 32 pounds of “high-quality” marijuana onto domestic flights, as well as heroin and Oxycodone.
The indictment also notes that arrested members of the ring were quickly released on bail and guaranteed the retention of legal services.
Those named in the indictment are: Esam Ghalid, 46; King G. Baker, 52; Sarah Abd-Elaziz, 30; Michael M. Lewis, 28; James Hawkins, 64; Chikezie Ikenna Iwundu, 26; Kayla Johnson, 23; Safiya Zina, 39; Delance Vanderhorst, 28; Yonston Eliezer Vazquez, 24; Germaine Janay Stepter, 22; Jiasia Mona Steib, 22; Bobbie Jean Stampley, 45; and Tommy Bardwell, 41.
Each person in the ring allegedly had a specific role. Part of Vazquez’s responsibilities, for example, included collecting and delivering the proceeds to the group’s leaders. Whereas, Hawkins, an airline employee, supplied over 100 airline passes to the drug ring’s members as a way to throw off authorities.
All 14 members were charged with “racketeering, attempt or conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance and conspiracy to commit money laundering,” as reported by The Times-Picayune.
Court records show that Steib, Lewis and Zina pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, but there is no indicated whether the other members are expected to be arraigned on similar charges.