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Entries in Drug Trafficking (3)

Saturday
Jan192013

Former Conn. Priest Indicted on Meth Charges

Image Source/Thinkstock(BRIDGEPORT, Conn.) -- A former Roman Catholic priest from Connecticut has fallen from grace after being indicted on charges that he was part of an alleged cross-country crystal methamphetamine drug ring.

Former Monsignor Kevin Wallin, 61, of Waterbury, who was the pastor of the St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport for nearly a decade, was one of five people indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday for allegedly transporting methamphetamine from Connecticut to California.

Also charged were Kenneth Devries, 52, of Waterbury; Michael Nelson, 40, of Manchester; Chad McCluskey, 43, of San Clemente, Calif.; and Kristen Laschober, 47, of Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Wallin was also charged with six counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams of methamphetamine since September, according to court documents.

Law enforcement officials say they believe he received shipments of methamphetamine from the West Coast and resold the drugs out of his apartment in Waterbury, ABC station WABC-TV in New York reported.

In addition, investigators suspect that Wallin may have owned an adult video shop in North Haven called Land of Oz that he allegedly used the store to launder the money he earned selling drugs, according to court documents.

The Diocese of Bridgeport released a statement saying that Wallin resigned as pastor of the Bridgeport parish in 2011, citing health and personal issues, and was granted a sabbatical.

The diocese said that Wallin's "faculties for public ministry were suspended in May 2012, and he has not been reassigned."

Despite that, the diocese continued to pay him a stipend until he was arrested on Jan. 3, the Connecticut Post reported.

Some of his former parishioners are shocked the man they esteemed as a "very honorable man of God" would be involved in such a scandal.

"I feel terrible about it. And we just keep praying from him, that's all. If these allegations are true, we pray he repents, makes his peace with God, like we all have to," a parishioner told ABC affiliate WABC.

If convicted, Wallin faces a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr252012

Feds: Crooked TSA Screeners Arrested in Drug Trafficking Scheme

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Multiple airport screeners have been arrested for allegedly taking handsome bribes to look the other way while loads of illegal drugs slipped through security at Los Angeles International Airport, federal officials announced Wednesday.

Two current and two former officials at the Transportation Security Administration were arrested in the last 48 hours in connection with at least five incidents from February 2011 to July 2011 in which on-duty screeners took payments of up to $2,400 to allow suitcases filled with drugs to pass unimpeded through X-ray machines at LAX, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr.'s office said in a statement.

According to Birotte's office, the scheme was uncovered after a member of the alleged conspiracy accidentally went through the wrong security line and was busted by TSA screeners who were not in on the plot. In another case, a TSA screener unknowingly arranged with a confidential source for the Drug Enforcement Administration to receive $1,200 for a shipment of methamphetamine to pass through security.

The current TSA employees, 23-year-old John Whitfield and 25-year-old Capeline McKinney, and the former screeners, 30-year-old Naral Richardson and 27-year-old Joy White, are all expected to be arraigned in Los Angeles on Wednesday. If convicted, each could potentially face life in prison, Birotte's office said. The plot also allegedly involved a couple of known drug runners.

"Airport screeners act as a vital checkpoint for homeland security, and air travelers should believe in the fundamental integrity of security systems at our nation's airports," Birotte said. "The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation's security needs."

A spokesperson for the TSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this report, but Randy Parsons, the TSA Federal Security Director at LAX, said in the statement from Birotte's office the TSA "has assured the investigating agencies we will do everything we can to assist in their investigation."

"While the arrests are a disappointment, TSA is committed to holding our employees to the highest standards," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec012011

Sophisticated Drug Tunnel Could Have Moved Tons of Narcotics

FRANCISCO VEGA/AFP/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- Federal officials revealed that a drug tunnel discovered Tuesday during a bust that netted 32 tons of marijuana was so sophisticated that it had a secret working elevator, electric lighting, rail cars and hydraulic doors -- but may have been found before smugglers could get the narcotics into the hands of American customers.

The tunnel, ending in San Diego, Calif., is easily the "most sophisticated that we have discovered perhaps ever, but definitely at least in the last five years," Lauren Mack, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told ABC News early Wednesday.

Authorities described the intricate, 600-yard-plus tunnel, as well as the seizure of 32 tons of marijuana -- value estimated at $65 million -- at a press conference late Wednesday. But according to ICE special agent Derek Benner, the underground passageway was found before the smugglers could make use of all their hard work.

"From the conditions inside the passageway and our ongoing investigation, we're confident we've been able to shut this operation down before the perpetrators were able to use it for smuggling narcotics," Benner said in a statement. "It's clear though, from the level of sophistication involved, that the criminal organization responsible for constructing this tunnel had very ambitious plans."

The tunnel's discovery was the product of a six-month investigation by several law enforcement agencies, including San Diego's dedicated Tunnel Task Force, along with Mexican authorities, ICE said. A late break in the case came when officials observed a tractor trailer leaving a warehouse in the southern San Diego neighborhood of Otay Mesa. Drug dogs at a border patrol checkpoint in San Clemente, Calif., outside Los Angeles alerted agents to narcotics on board, but, being aware of the larger investigation, the agents allowed the truck to roll through.

It wasn't until the truck arrived at its apparent destination in a Los Angeles suburb and men began unloading its cargo that federal agents moved in, arrested four men and seized nearly 11 tons of marijuana from the truck, ICE said. Another approximately 17 tons of pot was discovered in the Otay Mesa warehouse "wrapped in plastic and stacked neatly on pallets."

On the Mexican side, ICE said the tunnel's entrance was in another warehouse but could only be accessed through a "hydraulically-controlled steel door and an elevator concealed beneath the warehouse floor." At the bottom of the tunnel shaft, federal agents found another three tons of marijuana. Another ton was found "in bundles near the tunnel's entrance," ICE said.

Six suspects were arrested in total in connection with the drug smuggling operation.

The tunnel's discovery is the latest in a string of high-profile finds in the war on drugs. More than 75 cross-border smuggling tunnels have been discovered since 2007, ICE said.

Earlier this month, U.S. authorities nabbed 14 tons of marijuana from warehouses connected by a drug tunnel from Mexico to the same south San Diego neighborhood. Just a few days ago a pair of similar tunnels were uncovered in the Arizona border town of Nogales.

Federal officials are "putting a stranglehold on the cartels' ability to smuggle drugs into the United States," said William R. Sherman, acting special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego. "Seizing close to 50 tons of marijuana in one month denies the cartels the financial means to continue their operations."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio