A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer has been indicted on charges that he helped Dominican cocaine smugglers try to evade airport luggage checks, Brooklyn federal prosecutors announced on Tuesday.
Fernando Marte, 29, pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn federal court to conspiracy to smuggle more than 100 pounds of cocaine and to knowingly importing the drugs. He was arrested in February and fired, and released on $1 million bond with home detention.
His lawyer, Murray Richman, and prosecutors told the judge that plea negotiations were underway.
While working at JFK Airport, prosecutors allege, Marte approached two arriving passengers arriving from Santo Domingo carrying Samsonite suitcases on Feb. 7, kissed one on the cheek, and escorted them past an inspection point.
The passengers allegedly waited in baggage claim and then loaded the suitcases onto a luggage cart, and Marte escorted the bags and one passenger past a second inspection point. But after other customs officers questioned the remaining passenger, agents retrieved the bags, which contained 45 bricks of cocaine wrapped in duct tape.
Charges are still pending against the passengers whom Marte met; the two are identified in court filings as Victor Gonzalez and Patricia Suarez.
The government said it also had information from an informant, a drug courier, that Marte met him at JFK in early 2016 and helped him avoid inspections.
Marte faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each of two counts. His next court date is scheduled for May 12.