A mail carrier in Seacaucus, N.J. and her boyfriend were charged yesterday with the distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine, conspiracy and mail theft for allegedly intercepting packages of cocaine mailed from Puerto Rico to New Jersey as part of a drug trafficking ring, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
The criminal complaint alleges that U.S. Postal Service employee Christina Nunez, 30, had been receiving packages of cocaine mailed from Puerto Rico to delivery addresses along her mail route since October 2010 as part of an elaborate distribution scheme.
Each time a package was sent, Nunez allegedly took it into her possession before it reached its delivery address, scanned it as delivered mail and transported it to co-conspirators in Camden, N.J. The drug trafficking organization paid her $500 to $600 for each package she successfully recovered, according to the complaint.
Law enforcement officials allegedly seized more than two kilograms of cocaine during the one-and-a-half-year investigation. The first bust was on Feb. 1, 2011, when inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seized 1,569 grams of cocaine from an express mail package sent from Puerto Rico that Nunez was supposed to deliver, according to the complaint.
Officials then noticed that Nunez had been supposedly delivering packages with similar weights and sequential tracking numbers sent from three locations in Puerto Rico to addresses along her route that were nonexistent, false or inaccurate since October of 2010, according to the complaint.
After the seizure, the drug trafficking organization allegedly stopped sending packages for about nine months, until December of 2011. At that time, investigators again noticed that similar packages from Puerto Rico were again arriving addressed to locations along Nunez's delivery route. They said an examination of the packages revealed that the written names of their supposed recipients did not match the actual names associated with the delivery addresses.
Fishman said the investigation came together during a second seizure on Aug. 22, 2012, when officials in Kearny, N.J. recovered another suspicious package from Dorado, Puerto Rico and saw that the delivery address would again be assigned to Nunez's mail route.
After a drug-sniffing dog indicated the presence of narcotics, officials seized the 600 grams of cocaine that was allegedly wrapped in plastic and buried in coffee inside the package, replaced it with a dummy product similar in appearance and placed it back into circulation for delivery. They equipped the package with a GPS tracker and set up a surveillance camera inside Nunez's delivery car.
The complaint claims that Nunez failed to deliver the package to its assigned address on Aug. 24 and instead took it to her home in Lyndhurst, N.J. at the end of her shift. There, she was arrested along with boyfriend
Luis A. Vega, 36.
Further investigation allegedly revealed that both Nunez and Vega received additional packages of narcotics at their homes. Officials say Vega admitted that four or five such packages were mailed to his former residence in Jersey City between February of 2011 and May of 2012 and that he occasionally accompanied Nunez to drop off the drug-filled packages she received along her mail route to their co-conspirators in Camden.
An unknown number of packages were also allegedly mailed to Vega's Lyndhurst residence between February and May of 2012, when she was on medical leave from the Postal Service.
Officials estimate that the couple and their co-conspirators distributed more than 18 kilograms of cocaine between October of 2010 and August of 2012. Nunez is set to appear in federal court in Newark today. Vega was in court yesterday.