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American Airlines Mechanic Found Guilty of Smuggling $320,000 Worth of Cocaine into the U.S. Hidden in a Compartment Under the Cockpit

American Airlines Mechanic Found Guilty of Smuggling $320,000 Worth of Cocaine into the U.S. Hidden in a Compartment Under the Cockpit

an airplane on the runway

An aircraft mechanic who worked for American Airlines at New York JFK Airport has been found guilty of smuggling $320,000 worth of cocaine into the United States after Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers found ten bricks of cocaine hidden inside a special compartment under the cockpit of an airplane.

Paul Belloisi was found guilty by a federal jury of all three counts of an indictment charging him with conspiring to possess cocaine, conspiring to import cocaine, and importing cocaine, following a trial in Brooklyn district court.

Prosecutors had alleged that Belloisi was the inside man in an international drug trafficking gang which was responsible for smuggling large quantities of cocaine from Jamaica into the United States.

Following the verdict, Breon Peace, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said Belloisi was “caught red-handed trying to facilitate the smuggling of a large stash of cocaine hidden in an electronics compartment of the aircraft.”

“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,” Peace continued.

Belloisi had free reign around the airfield and was able to come and go on American Airlines airplanes without facing the threat of being challenged.

At around 3:30 pm on February 4, 2020, American Airlines flight AA1349 arrived at Terminal 8, New York JFK, having just flown in from Montego Bay, Jamaica when CBP officers decided to carry out a random enforcement exam of the aircraft.

The inspection included a search of the main avionics compartment, which is situated underneath the cockpit but is accessible from the ground. During this search, they found ten bricks of what appeared to be cocaine concealed behind an insulation compartment.

CBP removed the bricks but then replaced them with dummy drug bricks that had been sprayed with a substance that glows when illuminated. They also placed a transponder in the compartment to alert them if the bricks were moved and began a surveillance job on the airplane.

For several hours no one approached the aircraft, which was due to depart at 8 pm for its next flight. Just 20 minutes before its scheduled departure and while passengers were already boarding the plane, Belloisi was spotted driving up to the front of aircraft and entering the avionics bay.

Within a few seconds of Belloisi entering the compartment, the transponder had activated, and CBP officers rushed to the airplane, observing Belloisi readjusting the insulation blanket where the bricks were hidden behind.

Belloisi’s gloves glowed from the substance that had been on the bricks, and he was detained for questioning. Belloisi was found to have cut holes into the inside of his work coat that created compartments capable of holding the bricks. He also had an empty mechanics bag in his vehicle.

The bricks of drugs weighed more than 35 pounds and field tested positive for cocaine. Officials believe the cocaine had a street value of between $285,000 to $320,000.

In 2020, an American Airlines mechanic based at Los Angeles International Airport was accused of using his position to help smuggle Khat into the United States. The leaves of the Khat plant can be chewed to produce a stimulant effect.

The stimulants found in Khat – Cathine and cathinone – are both outlawed in the United States.

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