Authorities say that an American Airlines mechanic was found guilty of trying to sneak more than 25 pounds of cocaine into the country by hiding it in a compartment under the cockpit of a plane. The stash was worth up to $320,000 on the street.
A federal jury in Brooklyn found the 55-year-old mechanic, Paul Belloisi, guilty on Tuesday of conspiring to possess cocaine, conspiring to import cocaine, and importing cocaine, according to a news statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the eastern district of New York. The verdict, which came after a week-long trial in district court, could mean up to 20 years in jail.
At John F. Kennedy International Airport, Belloisi worked as a mechanic for American Airlines. Prosecutors say that on Feb. 4, 2020, during a routine random search, customs officers and agents from the airport’s anti-terrorism contraband enforcement team found 10 bricks of cocaine, weighing about 25 1/2 pounds, hidden in an electronics compartment below the cockpit of an American Airlines flight from Montego Bay.
Agents Took the Cocaine Bricks Away
Agents took the cocaine bricks away and replaced them with fakes that they sprayed with a material that glows under a special black light. The plane was then put under surveillance, and before its next flight, Belloisi drove up to the plane and went into the electronics section while it was being watched.
When police caught up with him later, they could tell that he had touched the fake rocks because his gloves lit up under their black light. At the time, Belloisi was also carrying an empty tool bag, and the district attorney’s office says that “the lining of his jacket had cutouts large enough to hold the bricks.”
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said, “It was proven that the defendant was caught in the act trying to help smuggle a large stash of cocaine hidden in an electronics compartment of the plane.” “This dishonest airline mechanic not only took advantage of his position and hurt the security of a key border crossing in our district, but he was also willing to put the safety of travelers and the community at risk.”
After Belloisi was charged in 2020, the government said that the fact that he tried to move such a large amount of drugs across international borders showed that he was an “inside man” at American Airlines who used his position to do bad things.
Richard Donoghue, who was the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of New York at the time, said in a statement that “this airline mechanic abused his position as a trusted employee and his access to sensitive areas of JFK Airport to help bring cocaine into the country illegally.”
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