A woman caught carrying liquid cocaine in her luggage on an American Airlines International flight from Argentina last year was sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison today.
Maria Angeles Cano Tomas, of Spain, and Cristobal Puyuelo-Gracia were arrested in October 2010 after inclement weather forced their Buenos Aires flight to be re-routed into Newark Liberty International Airport from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
The pair landed and gathered their suitcases before proceeding to an inspection station where Customs and Border Protection officers randomly selected them for a secondary inspection. There, the officers discovered six bottles labeled “Alcachofa” and “Una de Gato” (artichokes and Cat's Claw). The liquid later tested positive for the presence of cocaine, said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
According to a press release, Cano Thomas and Puyuelo-Graciao both pleaded guilty in Newark Federal Court to the illegal importation of more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. In addition to her prison term, U.S. District Judge William J. Martini ordered Cano Tomas to serve three years of supervised probation. Puyuelo-Gracia, who is scheduled to sentenced January 11, 2012, faces life in prison and a $4 million fine.
Fishman credited both guilty pleas to the work of special agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (Andrew M. McLees), Customs and Border Protection (Robert E. Perez) and New Jersey and New York Port Authority Police Departments (Superintendent Michael A. Fedorko).