Pubdate: Wed, 13 Apr 2005
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2005 Reuters Limited
Contact: London, UK
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


NEW YORK - A U.S. Air National Guard pilot and a crew member have been 
arrested for using official military missions to smuggle millions of 
dollars worth Ecstasy into the United States, federal authorities said on 

Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Christopher Giovino, who 
heads the New York organized drug enforcement strike force, said the 
arrests were part of a long-term, ongoing investigation. He described the 
men as transporters in a bigger conspiracy but said he could not provide 
any other details.

Capt. Franklin Rodriguez, a pilot of the U.S. Air Force C-5A "Galaxy" cargo 
aircraft, and Master Sgt. John Fong, in charge of loading and unloading 
cargo, were arrested on Tuesday and expected to be presented in Manhattan 
federal court on Wednesday night.

Officials said some 290,000 Ecstasy pills were found in the defendants' 
luggage upon their return to the United States. According to the Drug 
Enforcement Administration Web site, an Ecstasy tablet typically sells 
between $20 and $30 on the street and its value can be as high as $40.

During questioning by law enforcement authorities, the men admitted to 
authorities that they had also transported Ecstasy on previous military 
flights, the complaint stated.

The men are charged with one count of conspiracy to import Ecstasy into the 
United States and one count of conspiracy to distribute the drug. If 
convicted, the two men face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a 
$1 million fine on each count.

According to the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, Rodriguez was 
the pilot and Fong was the loadmaster on a U.S. Air Force C-5A aircraft 
last week from the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, 
on an official mission to deliver training supplies to the Republic of Georgia.

On their return, the crew stopped in Germany where the two defendants went 
to a hotel room and loaded packages of Ecstasy into their luggage, the 
complaint said.

On Tuesday, after the men landed at the Stewart Air National Guard Base, 
federal law enforcement agents searched their luggage and found 28 large 
bags filled with Ecstasy tablets.

Law enforcement agents who interviewed Rodriguez said he admitted 
transporting Ecstasy on military flights on a number of other occasions and 
had taken the drug to his Bronx apartment for distribution.

Fong told agents he transported pills with Rodriguez on three prior 
occasions and was paid $10,000 for each trip. Authorities would not comment 
on who had paid Fong.
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