Feds: Airport workers used flights to distribute meth

CHARLOTTE, NC — Federal authorities say 10 people who worked at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport used commercial flights to distribute counterfeit methamphetamine that was flown to Charlotte and elsewhere.

Prosecutors announced Tuesday that the 10 were arrested a day earlier and each indicted on a count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

The Dallas Morning News reports seven worked for Envoy Air, a regional carrier owned by American Airlines. Two others worked for Spirit Airlines, authorities said. The tenth suspect had not been arrested as of Tuesday morning.

Authorities say beginning in 2016, the group used their positions to bypass security and place what they thought was meth on flights. They allegedly had 145 lbs. of the fake drug transported to various domestic destinations.

The bulk of the product was sent to Newark, New Jersey, while other shipments were flown to Phoenix and North Carolina.

Federal prosecutors identified the suspects as Nelson Pabon, 47, Jean Loui Vargas-Malave, 28, Juan Camacho Melendez, aka “Kendo Kaponi” and “Anthony,” 22, Ruben Benitez-Matienzo, 45, Jose Luis Gaston-Rolon, 24, Joshua Israel Pagan Zapata, 21, Domingo Villafane Martinez, III, 30, Luis Javier Collazo Rosado, aka “Luisito,” 21, Michael LNU, and Cristian David Cruz-Rodriguez, 23. They're charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a schedule II controlled substance.

“We have zero tolerance for employees who seek to undermine and evade the security protocols at airports,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “Smugglers are constantly seeking new ways to move illegal contraband across the country and we will do whatever necessary to thwart these criminals at every turn. Working together with federal and local law enforcement partners, we continue to prioritize efforts to help mitigate the insider threat to aviation security.”

One of the defendants, Nelson Pabon, allegedly told undercover officers that he could smuggle C-4 explosives for $5,500 after assuring the officers that it wouldn't explode, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said no actual explosives or weapons were actually transported.

Envoy issued the following statement on Tuesday:

"At American and Envoy Air, we have an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our customers and team members. We take this matter very seriously and are cooperating with law enforcement during their investigation."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)