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Spouse of Assembly speaker’s chief of staff cuffed for smuggling drugs through JFK

Photo: Shutterstock

A Bronx man who’s married to the chief of staff for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was arrested for his alleged role in a conspiracy to bring drugs into the country, prosecutors announced Monday.

Orlando Dennis, 31, a delivery truck driver, was indicted on charges for conspiracy to import cocaine on Jan. 6, according to U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. He was released on a $150,000 bond later that same day.

According to the charges, on June 7, 2019, a brown, soft-sided roller bag with a purple bandana tied around the handles arrived at JFK Airport from a Caribbean Airlines flight from Sangster Airport located in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and was left unclaimed.

When it was inspected on June 8, 2019, customs agents found that the bag contained three brick-shaped objects, sealed in plastic.

CBP officers probed the objects and discovered a white powdery substance that field-tested positive for cocaine. The three kilos of cocaine found in the bag has an estimated street value of $100,000.

Surveillance footage taken from the same day that the cocaine was discovered allegedly showed a Swissport airport employee entering the belt room the previous day at approximately 10:37 p.m., just after other Swissport employees began loading the checked bags from the flight onto the conveyor belt.  He was allegedly seen talking on his cellphone while adjusting bags on the conveyor belt. He was later seen leaving without unloading any baggage.

The airport employee’s phone records allegedly found that he had called another conspirator who was in Jamaica at the time the bag was sent to New York. The complaint states that this suspect was in Jamaica between May and July 2019.

The airport employee was arrested on Aug. 21. A search of his cellphone allegedly revealed text messages between himself and another individual who worked at JFK Airport stating that the two of them had missed the bag. The employee further stated in the text message exchange that the people who had sent the Bag were now saying that they were going to kill him.

Following an ongoing investigation, homeland security investigators obtained cellphone records from the second conspirator, which allegedly uncovered multiple calls between him and Dennis around June 7, 2019. The criminal complaint states the Dennis was also allegedly in Jamaica from May 2019 and had returned to the United States one week before the bag of cocaine arrived at JFK Airport on or about June 7.

Dennis allegedly flew to Jamaica again in December 2019 and returned on or about Jan. 6, 2020 through JFK Airport. When Dennis arrived, customs and homeland security agents performed a non-forensic search of Dennis’s phone, where they allegedly discovered a picture of the bag and messages about the bag between Dennis and the two co-conspirators from June 8 to June 10, 2019.

Agents also allegedly discovered on Dennis’s phone a message from the second co-conspirator on June 7, 2019, from soon after the first co-conspirator missed the bag on the conveyor belt, telling Dennis that there was a “big problem.”

Dennis’s co-conspirators were arrested in August, pleaded guilty last month to drug importation charges and are currently awaiting sentencing. If convicted, Dennis faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.

At this time, Assembly Speaker Heastie’s office did not comment on the situation.

Updated at 5:10 p.m.

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