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Ex-inmate charged with trying to use drones to smuggle contraband into Fort Dix prison

Ex-inmate charged with trying to use drones to smuggle contraband into Fort Dix prison

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A Jersey City man was scheduled to be in court Wednesday for allegedly using drones to smuggle contraband, including tobacco and cellphone chargers, into the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix, officials said Tuesday.

Jason Arteaga Loayza, 29, also known as Juice, is facing charges of conspiracy to smuggle contraband and possession of heroin and fentanyl with intent to distribute, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.

Arteaga was charged in November 2019 and arrested by federal marshals in Vermont on Monday. His initial court appearance was to be before U.S. Magistrate John M. Conroy in Burlington, Vermont.

Two other men, Adrian Goolcharran, and Nicolo Denichilo, have been charged with participating in the scheme. They have been released on bail, authorities said.

The offenses charged in the complaint carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and maximum fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy count and 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the narcotics count.

According to court documents, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General, obtained evidence that Arteaga, an inmate at Fort Dix from June 2017 to September 2018, participated in multiple drone deliveries of contraband between October 2018 and April 2019.

On Oct. 30, 2018, Fort Dix officers observed a drone with a fishing line hovering above the rooftop of a housing unit. Underneath the hatch to the rooftop, which had the bolts removed, responding officers recovered a bag that contained tobacco, cellphone chargers and USB charging cables. In the same area, officers found a cellphone that was likely used to coordinate the drone drop, which was in frequent communication with Arteaga leading up to the drop. An inmate found near the rooftop hatch had wet knees, consistent with being on the wet rooftop to retrieve the contraband package, authorities said.

Arteaga’s iCloud account contained screenshots of search results for “fort dix weather” in October 2018 and screenshots of live chats with an inmate taken days before the drop in which the inmate appeared to be inside Fort Dix and wearing a prison uniform, according to court documents.

A few days earlier, Jersey City police encountered a man in the common area of Arteaga’s residence with multiple plastic bags containing cell phones. The man told police he came to the address to meet Juice, the documents said.

During a search of Arteaga’s home in June 2019, agents discovered a kitchen closet with packages of empty cellphone boxes, cellphone chargers, empty boxes of SIM cards and several phones, including a box that had been shipped to Arteaga the day before the drop.

The kitchen closet also contained a tobacco box consistent with the tobacco that had been recovered in drone drops. Each of the drone drops that followed the Oct. 30, 2018, drop contained cellphones or cellphone equipment, and one additional drone drop contained tobacco, the documents said.

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