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Airport workers charged with smuggling cocaine

MIAMI - Two employees of a baggage-handling company at Miami International Airport were among five men arrested in a scheme to smuggle hundreds of pounds of cocaine from Guatemala in marked suitcases, the FBI said Tuesday. The arrests came after FBI and U.S. Customs Service agents discovered a suitcase hidden at the airport, marked with a "New Arrivals" sticker and stuffed with 55 pounds of cocaine, FBI spokesman Paul Miller said.

"Suitcases were specially marked as containing cocaine, off-loaded by employees, secreted and then transported off airport grounds," Miller said Tuesday.

Candido Ramon Garcia, 38, a supervisor with Dispatch Services Inc., and ramp coordinator Wilfredo Casero, 29, are accused of coordinating the scheme to off-load specially marked suitcases from international flights, Miller said.

Guillermo Ruiz, 45, a Miami video store owner is accused of traveling to Guatemala and arranging cocaine shipments to the United States. He also was charged, along with Luis Estrada, 48, of Hialeah and Francisco Cruz, 61, of Miami.

All five were arrested Monday and charged with importing 55 pounds of cocaine on Feb. 8 and conspiring since last November to smuggle more than 11 pounds of cocaine through the airport.

A joint investigation by the FBI and customs has revealed that the five might be responsible for smuggling hundreds of additional pounds through the airport, Miller said.

Police have seized a 1979 BMW belonging to Garcia. Authorities also are checking whether earlier seizures made at the airport by the customs' contraband enforcement team are linked to this case, Miller said.