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West New York Flight Attendant Charged in Multimillion-Dollar Smuggling Operation



West New York, NJ – A local flight attendant, Charlie Hernandez, has been charged in a complex illegal operation involving the smuggling of large sums of money to the Dominican Republic.

Hernandez, from West New York, along with Sarah Valerio Pujols, faces charges of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business from 2014 through 2019, as outlined in a sealed complaint by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The duo is accused of moving approximately $2.5 million over five years, funds allegedly derived from narcotics sales. According to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the operation heavily exploited the Known Crewmember (KCM) program. This program typically offers less stringent security checks for flight crew, a loophole Hernandez and Pujols manipulated to facilitate their illegal activities.

“As alleged, the defendants knowingly smuggled large amounts of illicit money linked to the sale of narcotics, to include fentanyl, and took advantage of airport security checkpoints by using their trusted positions as flight attendants,” said Ivan J. Arvelo, HSI New York Special Agent in Charge. “This investigation has exposed critical vulnerabilities in the airline security industry and has illuminated methods that narcotics traffickers are utilizing. Today’s announcement should serve as a warning to all airline personnel: HSI New York will not tolerate employees’ attempts to abuse their power for the sake of transporting illicit goods.”