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28025: Wharram (news) Airport officers smuggled cocaine (fwd)

 From Bruce Wharram <bruce.wharram@sev.org>

	Posted on Wed, Mar. 01, 2006

Airport officers smuggled cocaine


American Airlines' former director of security at Haiti's main airport
pleaded guilty on Tuesday to smuggling millions of dollars' worth of cocaine
to the United States aboard the airline's planes.

Stephanie Ambroise, who once worked at Port-au-Prince airport, was arrested
in fall 2004 by Drug Enforcement Administration agents at Miami
International Airport.

She later was indicted along with her husband on charges of conspiring to
smuggle more than five kilos of cocaine into the United States from 1999 to

Ambroise, who pleaded guilty on the eve of trial, faces up to five years in

Her husband, Yonel Joassaint, also pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S.
District Judge Paul Huck.

Joassaint, a former security employee for American Airlines at
Port-au-Prince airport, faces up to 12 years in prison.

Both defendants, prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Matthew Axelrod and
Michael Davis, are scheduled for sentencing on May 11.


The couple was charged in a federal investigation into a
narcotics-trafficking conspiracy allegedly linked to some former officials
in the government of ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. So
far, more than 20 defendants have been convicted in Miami federal court.

According to court records, Ambroise would ''coordinate and receive
suitcases and other merchandise containing cocaine to pass through airport
security.'' In return, she first received $1,000 per kilogram and eventually
raised her price to $2,000 per kilogram, records show.


Confidential sources told investigators that Ambroise worked with a Haitian
drug trafficker named Serge Edouard, who was convicted at trial last year.
They made two to three shipments monthly to Miami and New York, according to
court records.

The suitcases and other containers would be taken to Ambroise's husband the
night before the shipment and she would put numbered shipping tags on them,
records show. She would then call an airport worker, give him the tag
numbers and he would put the bags onboard U.S.-bound flights.

American Airlines flies from Haiti to Miami, New York and Boston.

© 2006 MiamiHerald.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.