Miami airport was hub of drug ring, feds say

Published April 20, 2007

MIAMI - Miami International Airport was the hub of a cocaine and heroin trafficking ring that used cargo workers to smuggle drugs, federal authorities said Thursday in announcing an indictment charging 29 people, including 12 airport workers.

The airport workers were employees of various cargo airlines that operate internationally. The smuggling operation that began in 2002 raised questions about how easily terrorists or other criminals could use similar means.

"You clearly had conspirators on the inside to help that take place," U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said of the drug operation. "That raises alarms about what may or may not be smuggled through these channels."

Announcement of the indictment came the same day that Lauren Stover, security and communications chief at the Miami airport, said in testimony to Congress that past drug trafficking rings led to improved security, such as more criminal background checks.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of more than 500 pounds of cocaine and 81 pounds of heroin. Of the 29 indicted on a variety of drug charges, 18 are in custody in the United States and six in Colombia, Acosta said. The rest are at large.