Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Two alleged heroin couriers working separately but arrested on the same day are expected to face a federal judge on June 8 on charges of attempting to smuggle heroin worth a total of nearly $500,000 on commercial flights leaving Los Angeles International Airport.

The two men were taken into custody on the same day, but they apparently did not know each other and were passengers on different airlines.

Cristian Santos, 21, of Compton, was arrested Tuesday at LAX by special agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration after boarding a Delta Airlines flight, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. DEA agents also arrested Joel Aron, 18, of Tijuana, Mexico, after he boarded a Hawaiian Airlines flight at LAX on the same day.

The suspects — charged in separate federal criminal complaints filed Tuesday in Los Angeles — apparently do not know each other.

Prosecutors allege that narcotics were discovered in Santos’ luggage after he checked in for an Indianapolis-bound flight. After seeing something suspicious in one of the bags during an image scan, Transportation Security Administration officers inspected the bag, and discovered an item that resembled a flattened pillow wrapped with black electrical tape, concealed inside the inner layer of the luggage, the complaint alleges.

After a TSA bomb detection officer determined that the package inside the bag was not an explosive, the parcel was found to contain a substance resembling brown tar, later determined to be heroin with a street value of $250,000, prosecutors contend.

Los Angeles Airport Police located Santos on his Delta Airlines flight, and escorted him off the airplane. During a subsequent interview, Santos admitted that the luggage belonged to him, and that he was working as a courier in exchange for cash, prosecutors allege.

Narcotics were also allegedly discovered in Aron’s luggage after he checked in for a flight bound for Honolulu.

After seeing something suspicious in one of the bags during an image scan, the TSA team discovered a “mass” at the bottom of the bag which was later determined to be heroin with a street value in Hawaii of $225,000, the complaint alleges.

Airport police located Aron on his Hawaiian Airlines flight, and escorted him off the plane. During a subsequent interview, Aron allegedly admitted to DEA special agents that the luggage belonged to him, and that this was the fourth time he had acted as a courier.

According to the complaint, Aron admitted that, each time he acted as a courier, he would cross the border from Mexico into the United States, and take a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles. Once in Los Angeles, Aron would receive a bag, and fly to Hawaii to deliver the bag to an unidentified male. According to the complaint, Aron would receive $3,000 for each trip.

Santos and Aron were each charged with one federal count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a felony which carries a possible maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

— City News Service 

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