King Airport shop clerk charged in drug trafficking
Published: September 24, 2013
Font size: [A] [A] [A]
ST. THOMAS - A St. Thomas man who worked as a gift shop clerk at the King airport pleaded not guilty in District Court Monday to drug trafficking charges. In July, five King airport workers were arrested in connection to two separate federal investigations into the smuggling of cocaine to Miami, New York and Atlanta airports.
Edisson Peguero Ortiz, of St. Thomas, was arrested Sept. 4 and is accused of using his position as a gift shop sales clerk to help arrange drug shipments and deliver cocaine to other members of a smuggling ring. He is charged with one count of drug conspiracy and two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
According to an indictment, the ring operated between November 2011 and October 2012. Three other defendants-Joelvis Acosta Liz, Isa Noel and Kirsten Alexander-were baggage handlers who arranged drug shipments, passed off packages of between 7 and 9 kilograms of cocaine to couriers in the airport's restrooms, and marked baggage containing narcotics with colored scarves to ensure its passage through security.
The conspiracy appears to have unraveled following the seizure of $32,000 from Liz on Sept. 3, 2012, and following the Sept. 16, 2012, arrest of Adalberto Vasquez Liriano, who was scheduled to board a flight to New York City when federal agents cornered him in a bathroom stall after Noel and Liz had allegedly passed him 7 kilograms of cocaine, according to court documents.
The indictment states that Ortiz delivered the 7 kilograms of cocaine Liriano was caught with to Noel and Liz from his car outside King Airport the same day.
Liz, Noel and Alexander were arrested in early July. Liz has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He is scheduled for sentencing Nov. 6.
Vazquez Liriano also pleaded guilty in District Court to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and was sentenced on July 23 to 120 months in prison, according to court records.
Another pending case involves two maintenance workers at King Airport - Leayle Benjamin and Aben Marrero Jr. - and two other men, Michael Samuels and Marlon Underhill. All are accused of smuggling cocaine from the airport for distribution to Miami and Atlanta in a similar fashion from a "time unknown" to October 2011, according to court records. All four men have entered not guilty pleas in District Court.
- Contact Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email email@example.com.