Smuggled drugs to Barbados – 19 Airline Employees convicted!
Earlier today, former American Airlines baggage handler Victor Bourne, a Barbadian national, was sentenced to life in prison for his leadership of an international drug trafficking organization called the “Bourne Organization” by law enforcement, that smuggled cocaine from the Caribbean into the United States. Bourne was convicted of narcotics trafficking offenses and money laundering following a month-long trial in October 2011.
In total, the investigation that culminated in Bourne’s conviction and sentence has resulted in 20 convictions, including the conviction of 19 airline employees, the seizure of 13 kilograms of cocaine and 2,900 pounds of marijuana, and the forfeiture of US$6.9 million.
Cocaine hidden in aircraft parts and compartments
The evidence at trial proved that, between 2000 and 2009, the Bourne Organization utilized corrupt employees of commercial airlines, including American Airlines, working at domestic and international ports of entry to smuggle illegal narcotics into the United States and throughout the Caribbean. Bourne paid dispatching crew chiefs at American Airlines to assign crews of baggage handlers, who, in turn, were paid tens of thousands of dollars by the Bourne Organization to retrieve the cocaine from the flights upon arrival. The cocaine smuggled aboard American Airlines flights into JFK Airport was hidden behind panels in the front and rear cargo holds, the ceiling and wing assembly, and in the aircraft’s avionics and other vital equipment compartments.
After removing the cocaine from these locations, the corrupt baggage handlers hid the drugs inside their coats and airline equipment bags to avoid detection by law enforcement and safely transport the drugs to Bourne. The government proved at trial that, in this manner, the Bourne Organization was responsible for the importation into the United States of over 150 kilograms of cocaine. At the time of his arrest in 2009, Bourne was preparing to transport even larger quantities of cocaine in cargo containers from the Carribean to the United States.
An American Airlines employee at JFK Airport who was not involved in drug trafficking testified that Bourne accused him of stealing two kilograms of cocaine. This witness testified that Bourne threatened to “kill me, my family, my kids” if the drugs were not returned. Shortly thereafter, Bourne confronted the same employee at the airport and pushed him off of a truck, causing a neck injury.
The evidence at trial also established that Bourne was responsible for the shipment of over 5,000 pounds of marijuana aboard cargo vessels, in part through a Brooklyn footwear company, to businesses in Barbados.
Bourne reaped millions of dollars in illegal cash proceeds from his illegal drug trafficking, and laundered his drug proceeds through businesses and real estate ventures in Brooklyn and Barbados.