NEW YORK – A U.S. military pilot and a sergeant were being held on federal narcotics charges after admitting they flew an Air Force jet from New York to Germany and returned with 290,000 pills of Ecstasy (search) worth millions of dollars, authorities said Wednesday.
Capt. Franklin Rodriguez, 35, and Master Sgt. John Fong, 36, were arrested Tuesday when their cargo plane returned to Stewart Air National Guard Base (search) in Newburgh, about 40 miles north of New York City.
The men were ordered held without bail at court appearances late Wednesday. Jennifer Brown, a lawyer for Fong, declined to comment. A lawyer for Rodriguez could not immediately be reached for comment.
Rodriguez and Fong, members of the Air National Guard, allegedly went to a hotel room in Germany and loaded packages of Ecstasy into their personal luggage, the complaint alleged.
When they returned to Stewart, federal law enforcement agents watched Fong load bags and boxes into a BMW (search) registered to Rodriguez, the complaint said.
Later, both men consented to interviews during which Rodriguez admitted he had brought the drugs from Germany and had done so before, eventually taking the drugs to his Bronx apartment for distribution, the complaint said.
Fong admitted he brought pills on three other military flights and that he was paid $10,000 a trip, the complaint said.
Christopher Giovino, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, said each pill of Ecstasy could be sold for between $9 and $40. That means the drugs seized in the case could be worth between $2.9 million and $11.6 million on the street.
If convicted, the men face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, prosecutors said.
Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a synthetic drug considered part hallucinogen and part amphetamine.