A Hudson County man admitted Tuesday that he participated in a conspiracy to use drones to smuggle contraband, including cell phones and tobacco, into the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix in Burlington County. He also admitted to possessing heroin and fentanyl with the intent to distribute them, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig said.
Jason “Juice” Arteaga-Loayza, 30, of Jersey City, who is a former inmate at Fort Dix, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and one count of possession of heroin and fentanyl with the intent to distribute. Arteaga-Loayza, who was on federal supervised release at the time of the offenses, also pleaded guilty to violating the terms of his supervised release.
Three other men, Adrian Goolcharran, also known as “Adrian Ahoda,” Nicolo Denichilo, and Johansel Moronta also have been charged with participating in the scheme to use drones to smuggle contraband into Fort Dix.
Arteaga-Loayza, a prisoner at Fort Dix from June 2017 to September 2018, admitted that he participated in multiple drone deliveries of contraband into Fort Dix after his release from prison. Between October 2018 and June 2019, Arteaga-Loayza arranged for Goolcharran, with Denichilo’s assistance, to fly drones over Fort Dix. The drones dropped packages of contraband into the prison, which were then sold to inmates for a profit. The packages that Arteaga-Loayza smuggled in included cell phones, cell phone accessories, tobacco, weight loss supplements, eyeglasses, and various other items. Arteaga-Loayza, with Moronta’s assistance inside of the prison, took inmate requests for specific items of contraband and oversaw the collection of payments. Arteaga-Loayza also collected contraband for upcoming drone drops and stored it at his home in Jersey City.
Arteaga-Loayza and his co-conspirators allegedly took various steps to prevent officials from detecting and intercepting the contraband, according to court documents. They planned drone drops during the late evening hours or overnight when the drones were less likely to be seen. Goolcharran, the drone pilot, allegedly flew the drones from concealed positions in the woods surrounding the prison with Denichilo’s assistance. The lights on the drones were covered with tape to make it more difficult for prison officials to spot the drones.
The men used cell phones, including contraband phones concealed within the prison, to coordinate the drone drops. A contraband cell phone used by Moronta, who was an inmate at Fort Dix, contained text messages to Arteaga-Loayza about the collection of profits from the sale of the contraband inside of the prison. According to court documents, in one exchange, Moronta messaged Arteaga-Loayza about an inmate, “Ok so I tell him 10 phones and 100 baco ( tobacco) he has to pay 10 bands and 500 on each phone?” Arteaga-Loayza responded, “And well even give him an ounce of weed tell him.” One of Arteaga-Loayza’s cell phones contained messages between him and Goolcharran coordinating drone drops. In April of 2019, Arteaga-Loayza sent Goolcharran marked-up aerial photos of Fort Dix to show Goolcharran where to drop the contraband. In another exchange, Arteaga-Loayza sent Goolcharran a message asking, “U think that u cud do something 2m.” Goolcharran replied, “2m too windy 20mph.”
During a search of Arteaga-Loayza’s home on June 27 of 2019, agents found a kitchen closet containing packages of empty cell phone boxes, including a package with empty cell phone boxes that had been shipped to Arteaga-Loayza the day before a drone drop on Oct. 30 of 2018 that included cell phone chargers, empty boxes of SIM cards, and several cell phones. The kitchen closet also contained a Bugler tobacco box, consistent with the tobacco recovered in earlier drone drops. Arteaga-Loayza also had a suitcase in his bedroom that contained his driver’s license, 20 packets of Suboxone sublingual film, a prescription opiate, and a plastic bag containing more than 21 grams of a substance containing heroin and fentanyl. Following the search of his home, Arteaga-Loayza moved and did not inform his probation officer of his whereabouts, officials said.
Arteaga-Loayza faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy count, and 20 years in prison, and a $1 million fine for the narcotics count. He also faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison for violating the terms of his supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 9.
Federal Bureau of Prisons personnel, special agents of the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s office special agents, Pemberton Borough Police Department officers, Pemberton Township Police Department officers, and Chesterfield Township Police Department officers all worked on the investigation.