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Empanadas used as drug mule at JFK: Narc chief

Photo courtesy ICE Homeland Security Investigations
By Rich Bockmann

These empanadas are addictive, according to authorities.

The city’s special narcotics prosecutor last week announced a South Jamaica man had been arrested and charged with heading a ring of criminals who snuck heroin and cocaine into the country from Ecuador by concealing the drugs inside empanadas flown into John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Some of Jorge Guerrero’s other favorite ways to conceal narcotics, according to the charges, were inside chocolate bars and scuba diving diplomas soaked with drugs.

The six-month investigation found that during his day job delivering luggage lost by passengers at LaGuardia and JFK airports, Guerrero, 32, also allegedly stole pricey items he then sold for a hefty profit back in Ecuador, according to Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.

“Whether using access to international cargo to profit from Ecuador’s bargain wholesale prices for narcotics, or pilfering designer underwear from personal luggage, the Guerrero organization rarely overlooked an opportunity to earn a dishonest dollar,” she said.

Brennan said that during the six-month wiretap, investigators heard Guerrero allegedly discussing transporting shipments of cocaine and heroin, as well as stealing airline passengers’ property from their baggage and attempting to cover his tracks by having security tapes erased.

The prosecutor said U.S. Homeland Security agents searched the apartment Guerrero shared with his wife, Cecilia, at 106-26 Union Hall St. Aug. 7 and found three ledgers detailing the sales of items Guerrero had allegedly stolen from passengers dating back to 2011.

The agents also recovered 13 suitcases, some of which bore tags with other people’s names; more than 50 handbags with brand names such as Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Burberry, Coach and Prada; 15 iPads, iPods and laptop computers; 20 cameras; 50 watches; 30 pairs of sunglasses; bottles of high-end liquor; perfume; and clothing with the tags still attached, Brennan said.

A search of the Bronx home of one of Guerrero’s alleged accomplices turned up more than a pound of heroin and cocaine, and the search of another suspect’s home in Brooklyn yielded Western Union wire transfer receipts to an Ecuadorian drug supplier, according to the prosecutor, and drug paraphernalia including a scale, strainer, bags and drug cutting agents.

Over a three-month period, agents intercepted about nine pounds of cocaine and more than two pounds of heroin from a warehouse at JFK and private parcel delivery companies in Newark, N.J., authorities said.

Six people were charged with conspiracy, including Guerrero and his wife, as well as Luis Amable Caisa Altamirano, of 40-40 69th St. in Woodside.

The other defendants were Riqui Perez, of the Bronx; Noe Fernandez, of Brooklyn; and Judy Campos, of Staten Island.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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