Flight Attendants Accused Of Exploiting Airport Security Privileges To Smuggle Drug Money

Four flight attendants have been charged with operating an unlicensed money transmission business and violating airport security requirements after allegedly smuggling approximately $8 million in drug-related proceeds out of the United States by taking advantage of their special clearance with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The suspects, identified as Charlie Hernandez, 42, Sarah Valerio Pujols, 42, Emmanuel Torres, 34, and Jarol Fabio, 35, allegedly exploited the Known Crewmember Program (KCM), which allows airline employees to bypass airport security with less scrutiny.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendants knowingly smuggled large amounts of illicit money linked to the sale of narcotics, including fentanyl, and received a small cut of each shipment.

Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Ivan Arvelo said, “This investigation has exposed critical vulnerabilities in the airline security industry and has illuminated methods that narcotics traffickers are utilizing.”

The investigation, led by Homeland Security Investigations and the NYPD, began in 2018 and uncovered the defendants’ alleged use of code words such as “lotions” to mean drug cash and “los tigres” to refer to their drug-dealing clients.

If convicted, the defendants face up to 15 years in prison, with Hernandez and Pujols facing additional charges that could increase their maximum sentences to 20 and 25 years, respectively.