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July 17, 2015

Cocaine smuggler receives 300-month sentence

Edwin Fernandez tried to smuggle 150 kilograms of cocaine into the United States

A 37-year-old Philadelphia man was sentenced Friday to 300 months in prison for smuggling cocaine into the United States via the Philadelphia International Airport.

Edwin Fernandez worked with a Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic drug trafficking organization (DTO) to smuggle about 150 kilograms of cocaine between December 2011 and July 2012. Fernandez pleaded guilty Jan. 5 to varying drug-related charges, including conspiracy, importation and distribution.

The Santo Domingo DTO employed several individuals, including Santo Domingo airport personnel, to ensure that cocaine-filled bags were safely loaded onto commercial airplanes destined for Philadelphia.

Fernandez notified several Philadelphia recruits, who worked for U.S. Airways, to divert the drug-filled bags onto domestic baggage claim belts to avoid inspection by the United States Customs and Border Protection. He then arranged for the bags to be picked up for distribution to domestic drug organizations.

Fernandez's sentence also included a $5,000 fine, 10 years of supervised release and a $600 special assessment.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“The elaborate scheme this drug trafficker created was thwarted by the efforts of  U.S. Customs and Border Protection and our other law enforcement partners,” John Kelleghan, HSI Philadelphia special agent in charge, said in a statement. “When criminals seek to exploit the legitimate security and customs inspection process by corrupting airline employees with access to sensitive areas, it creates a national security vulnerability that will not be tolerated.”