Newark baggage handler was also smuggling cocaine through airport

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that TYRONE WOOLASTON was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan to 180 months in prison for his participation in a multi-year scheme to smuggle cocaine into the United States through Newark Liberty International Airport.  WOOLASTON was convicted in February 2019, after a two-week jury trial, of conspiring to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, and using a firearm in furtherance of cocaine trafficking.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Tyrone Woolaston used his position as a baggage handler at Newark Liberty Airport to smuggle cocaine into the United States.  When law enforcement conducted an undercover operation to investigate, Woolaston, carrying a semi-automatic pistol, delivered five kilos of what he believed to be cocaine.  Now Woolaston has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his crimes.”

According to court documents and the evidence at trial:

WOOLASTON was a lead baggage handler for a commercial airline at Newark Liberty International Airport (the “Airport”).  From in or about 2013 through February 2018, WOOLASTON conspired to smuggle shipments of cocaine into the United States. WOOLASTON abused his secure access to the restricted areas of the Airport to remove suitcases containing shipments of multiple kilograms of cocaine from international flights and smuggle them through the Airport for distribution in the New York City area.

In 2017 and 2018, agents from the New Jersey Office of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) conducted an undercover operation to investigate cocaine smuggling at the Airport.  As part of the investigation, a confidential source met with WOOLASTON to arrange a cocaine shipment, and WOOLASTON agreed to bring a suitcase containing five kilograms of cocaine through the Airport.  On February 10, 2018, HSI agents placed a suitcase containing approximately five kilograms of sham cocaine on an international flight from the Cayman Islands to the Airport.  WOOLASTON was working on the Airport ramp when the flight arrived at the Airport, and took possession of the suitcase and carried the sham cocaine shipment through the Airport, evading customs screening.  The following day, WOOLASTON carried a .40 caliber Glock pistol, equipped with a laser sight, to deliver the sham cocaine to the confidential source.