By Kathy Jefcoats
ATLANTA — A Hampton man and two former Delta co-workers were sentenced Wednesday to federal prison for their roles in a drug-smuggling scheme, said officials.
Luis Marroquin, 36, of Atlanta, Carlos R. Springer, 42, of Hampton and Kelvin Rondon, 28, of Miami, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said the airline workers violated the public’s trust.
“People have a reasonable expectation when boarding an airplane that airline personnel will be professionals who value their safety and will not expose them to illegal activity,” she said.
Yates said Delta Air Lines flight 364 arrived Jan. 13, 2012, at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from Mexico City. A Delta agent discovered an unclaimed piece of luggage at a baggage carousel with a tag from that flight.
Customs and Border Protection agents inspected the luggage and determined that it contained multiple packages of suspected illegal narcotics, said Yates. Later that same day, Springer was interviewed by Homeland Security Investigations agents. Springer was the performance leader for the shift of ramp employees who off-loaded the baggage on flight 364.
“During a search of Springer’s cellular telephone, agents found coded, incriminating text messages between Springer and Marroquin around the time of the arrival of the flight,” said Yates. “Rondon was observed on the video of the arrival and unloading of flight 364, although he was off-duty and had no authorization to work the flight.”
Agents also learned that Marroquin recruited Rondon.
“Rondon was to make sure that the bag was on the flight and was to be paid $500 per package,” Yates said. “The day before flight 364 arrived, Rondon was shown a photo of the drug-laden bag on Marroquin’s telephone. Rondon stated when he arrived on the tarmac he helped unload the cargo and attempted to find the bag but was unsuccessful.”
Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta, said security at the airport is of utmost concern.
“The security of critical infrastructure like Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is a key national security concern,” he said. “HSI special agents and our partners like U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Delta security team are committed to identifying those who seek to exploit the system and ensuring they are held accountable for their actions.”
Following the return of the indictment May 1, Marroquin fled the Atlanta area but was apprehended several days later in a residence in Coral Springs, Fla., said Yates.
Marroquin was sentenced to 15 years, eight months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. Springer was sentenced to 11 years, three months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. Rondon was sentenced to five years, three months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release.
Marroquin, Springer and Rondon pleaded guilty last year.