Customs agents charged with smuggling at JFK airport

CNN | May 28, 2008

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two U.S. customs agents were arrested on charges they helped smuggle drugs and other contraband through New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Customs supervisor Walter Golembiowski and officer John Ajello face narcotics, bribery and conspiracy charges in the case, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Golembiowski and Ajello regularly solicited and accepted bribes to allow contraband to pass through undetected, the DEA said.

Two airport workers and two others were also charged with importing counterfeit goods. Some of those items included Rolex, Cartier and Chanel watches and designer sunglasses, the DEA said. On several occasions, Golembiowski was captured on audio and video taking bribes to aid his co-conspirators in bringing in illegal drugs and counterfeit goods.

"Smuggling any kind of illegal commodity raises troubling issues at a time of deep concern over national security," said Michael J. Garcia, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. "The threat is heightened when a government official accepts bribes to help smugglers breach our borders."

The arrests came as a result of a lengthy sting operation by a state, local and federal task force. Prosecutors said numerous recorded meetings and phone calls captured the suspects talking about plans to smuggle hashish, ecstasy and other illegal items.

The investigation has led to the indictment and prosecution of more than 20 people -- "from distributors to overseas sources of supply" -- and the seizure of more than 600 pounds of imported hashish and other drugs from the United States and France, according to the statement.