Two Hudson County men were charged with conspiring to use drones to smuggle contraband, including marijuana, steroids, syringes, cell phones and cell phone equipment, into the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced on March 13.
Nicolo Denichilo, 38, from Jersey City, and Adrian Goolcharran, 35, from Union City, were each charged with one count of conspiring to smuggle contraband and to defraud the United States and one count of smuggling contraband into the federal prison at Fort Dix.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Denichilo was arrested March 12, after federal law enforcement agents learned of an alleged scheduled drone drop at Fort Dix. He appeared in Trenton federal court on March 13 and was released on $100,000 unsecured bond.
Goolcharran remains at large.
Drone smuggling ring
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, special agents of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) obtained evidence of at least seven alleged drone deliveries since July 2018 containing contraband meant for inmates at Fort Dix.
Goolcharran allegedly used cell phones to coordinate the drone drug drops with others. The careful coordination allegedly included text messages containing aerial shots of locations at Fort Dix to better position the drops as well as text messages discussing weather conditions.
On the same day as a drone drop in April of 2019, local police officers conducted a vehicle stop on Denichilo and Goolcharran less than five miles from Fort Dix, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
On March 7 of this year, an individual fitting Goolcharran’s description and another individual were captured by a surveillance camera allegedly carrying and flying a drone from a launch spot in the woods outside Fort Dix. Law enforcement also obtained evidence of Goolcharran allegedly bringing multiple drones to a store for repairs, including a broken drone shortly after the March 7 drone flight.
Law enforcement agents, acting on information obtained by Fort Dix officials, approached Denichilo and another individual at a launch site near Fort Dix, minutes after Fort Dix officials had observed a drone flying over a housing unit at the prison on March 12.
Both men fled. Denichilo was apprehended hiding in a ditch near the launch site. At the same time, agents seized an SUV near the launch site outside the prison that contained the drone in the backseat.
Lots of contraband
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Fort Dix officials also found an inmate in the area of the drone drop inside the prison in possession of 34 cell phones, nine chargers, 51 SIM cards, and other telephone equipment.
Contraband that has been seized by authorities in relation to the intercepted drone drops into Fort Dix includes more than 160 cell phones, 150 SIM cards, 74 cell phone batteries and chargers, steroids, 35 syringes, two metal saw blades, and marijuana.
Denichilo’s fingerprint was obtained from a plastic bag recovered from one of the drone drops at Fort Dix, according to the U.S. Attorney. Goolcharran’s DNA was recovered from electrical tape found on the drone used in a July 2018 drop.
The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and maximum fine of $250,000. The contraband smuggling count carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and $100,000 fine.
Carpenito credited special agents of DOJ-OIG, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Guido Modano, and its Cyber Investigations Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Keith A. Bonanno, with the investigation leading to the charges.
He also thanked the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 307, under the direction of Superintendent Jonathan Jackson and the U.S. Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Douglas Shoemaker for their help in the investigation.
The government is represented in this case by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cari Fais and Jeffrey Manis of the Office’s Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.