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200 pounds of cocaine discovered on plane

Seized at Logan after flight from Santo Domingo

By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / January 30, 2010

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In one of the larger seizures of illicit drugs in Massachusetts in recent years, State Police and federal agents recovered 200 pounds of cocaine from a passenger aircraft after it landed Wednesday at Logan International Airport, authorities said yesterday.

“We seized a significant amount of cocaine from an arrival flight at Logan Airport Wednesday night,’’ said David Procopio, State Police spokesman.

He said the seizure was made by a joint task force of state troopers and agents from federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A spokesman for American Airlines said in an e-mail yesterday that the flight originated in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.

“Because this is an active, open investigation, we are limited in how much we can say,’’ American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said. “I can tell you that our American Airlines corporate security department is working closely with local law enforcement authorities to investigate this incident.’’

Procopio said no one had been charged in connection with smuggling the cocaine.

In a statement, ICE was equally tight-lipped. “This is an international narcotics smuggling incident,’’ said the statement released by ICE spokesman Harold Ort. “ICE is involved with the investigation. Since the matter is ongoing, there are no further releasable specifics.’’

According to reports by the US State Department and US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Dominican Republic has become a major transshipment point for illicit drugs heading to the United States from South America. Media reports published in 2009 said that 30 generals were dismissed by the country’s leaders for alleged involvement in drug trafficking.

In a state-by-state study on drug use, the DEA reported that “Colombian and Dominican traffickers dominate the distribution throughout [Massachusetts].’’

In 2007, federal agents arrested 18 people in connection with a drug smuggling ring that used commercial flights into New York’s JFK Airport.

Yesterday, American Airlines spokesman Smith said the company plans to congratulate the mechanics who spotted the drugs on the plane and alerted authorities. “They will definitely be recognized’’ by the company for their actions, Smith said. “The overwhelming majority of our 75,000 employees are extremely honest, hard-working, and do the right thing.’’

In 2007, the DEA estimated that a gram of cocaine sold on the street was worth about $150, suggesting the cocaine recovered at Logan is worth an estimated $13 million.

John Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.