New York - A two count indictment unsealed Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court charged six people with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and/or money laundering. The indictments follow an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), United States Postal Inspection Service, Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The defendants allegedly conspired to transport cocaine through the U.S. mail from Puerto Rico to New York. On Wednesday, HSI agents arrested, Jermaine Sandifer, a U.S. postal carrier assigned to the Highbridge postal station in the Bronx.
As detailed in the indictment and other court filings by the government, between approximately 2011 and 2013, the defendants Kelvin Cisnero Santos, 48, of the Bronx, Saul Ovalles Corniel, 40, of Newark, New Jersey, Carlos Bello Tirado, 40, of Leesburg, Florida, Ernest Pena, 40 of the Bronx, and Jermaine Sandifer, 40 of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, were members of a large-scale drug trafficking organization based in the Bronx. The organization purchased hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from suppliers in Puerto Rico, packaged the drugs, and sent the drug-laden parcels through the mail from Puerto Rico to pre-arranged addresses in the Bronx.
The defendant Sandifer, a U.S. letter carrier, intercepted those parcels at the post office and delivered them to members of the organization. According to the detention letter filed by the government, each parcel sent to Sandifer contained approximately one to two kilograms of cocaine, and Sandifer was paid between $1,000 and $5,000 per parcel. The defendants also conspired to mail cocaine from Puerto Rico to numerous post office boxes operated by the organization in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and New Jersey. The cocaine was sold to various distributors in New York and New Jersey.
Defendants Santos, Corniel, Tirado, Pena, and others laundered proceeds from the drug sales through bank accounts in the New York metropolitan area to pay suppliers and make additional purchases of cocaine.
“This U.S. postal employee allegedly used his trusted position as a letter carrier to conspire with others to flood our streets with hundreds of kilos of cocaine,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in-charge of HSI New York. “HSI and its law enforcement partners are committed to dismantling drug trafficking organizations that wreak havoc on our neighborhoods.”
“However creative drug traffickers are in delivering their lethal product to our shores and the streets of our communities, we and our partners in law enforcement are committed to stopping them. The defendants will now be held to account,” stated United States Attorney Capers.
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.