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Long IslandCrime

Former customs officer from LI indicted on smuggling charges

Runways at Kennedy Airport near Jamaica Bay are

Runways at Kennedy Airport near Jamaica Bay are seen from the control tower in an undated image. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer from Long Island has been indicted on charges that he helped Dominican cocaine smugglers try to evade airport luggage checks, Brooklyn federal prosecutors announced on Tuesday.

Fernando Marte, 29, of Farmingdale, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to conspiracy to smuggle more than 100 pounds of cocaine and knowingly importing the drugs. He was arrested in February and fired, and released on $1 million bond with home detention.

His lawyer, Murray Richman, and prosecutors told the judge that plea negotiations are underway.

While working at Kennedy Airport, prosecutors allege, Marte approached two passengers arriving from Santo Domingo carrying Samsonite suitcases on Feb. 7, kissed one on the cheek, and escorted them past an inspection point.

They allegedly waited in baggage claim, then loaded the suitcases onto a luggage cart and Marte escorted the bags and one passenger past a secondary inspection point. After questioning the remaining passenger, agents retrieved the bags, and found 45 bricks of cocaine wrapped in duct tape inside.

Charges are pending against the two passengers Marte met, identified in court filings as Victor Gonzalez and Patricia Suarez.

The government said it also had information from an informant, a drug courier, that Marte met him at Kennedy in early 2016 and helped him avoid inspections.

“As a public servant entrusted with border security and keeping dangerous drugs out of our country, Officer Marte instead allegedly sought to serve himself and stained the badge he wore by doing so, by allowing cocaine to flow through JFK Airport and into our city,” said Brooklyn Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde.

He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years on each of two counts. His next court date was scheduled for May 12.

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