As Edwin M. Rosario watched his silver suitcase travel twice around the baggage carousel inside Terminal C, a federal agent approached, identified himself, and asked if he needed help locating his luggage, according to a police report.
“Rosario looked scared, he swallowed hard, moved very slowly, and displayed a look of disbelief on his face,” the agent wrote in his report about the Wednesday morning encounter at Logan International Airport. Authorities found 10 kilograms of neatly wrapped cocaine inside his suitcase, a discovery resulting from a tip relayed by US law enforcement agents based in the Caribbean.
Rosario and Naxel Miranda-Diaz, both of San Juan, were charged Thursday morning in East Boston District Court with drug trafficking after authorities found 22 kilograms of cocaine valued at more than $1 million in their luggage, the latest in a growing number of recent smuggling cases at Logan.
“At most what we have here is that he is a drug mule,” said Scott Lauer, Rosario’s attorney, who pleaded not guilty on his client’s behalf. “There is a major question as to whether he was a willing participant or not.”
Lauer and David Bell, Miranda-Diaz’s attorney, both said each client did not know his co-defendant.
Lauer said his 28-year-old client is a waiter, was born in San Juan, and was married with one child and another on the way. Rosario has no criminal record, said Lauer, who characterized him as “not the most sophisticated person.”
Bell said his 20-year-old client lives with his parents in San Juan and also has no criminal record.
Kevin McCarthy, Suffolk County assistant district attorney, asked Judge Robert Ronquillo to hold the defendants on $1 million cash bail each, but Ronquillo ordered each held on $250,000 cash bail pending an April 1 probable cause hearing.
Caribbean-based agents for the Drug Enforcement Administration were alerted by Transportation Security Administration screeners to an “anomaly” inside Miranda-Diaz’s luggage after it was checked in.
The agents discovered 12 kilograms of cocaine inside the luggage, but the Jet Blue flight had already departed. The agents contacted authorities at Logan and told them to apprehend Miranda-Diaz. They also said to follow Rosario because, based on surveillance footage, he appeared to be traveling with Miranda-Diaz, according to the report.
The two suspects sat close to each other on the flight. Stepping off the airplane, Miranda moved in a strange manner, according to a State Police report.
“For example, Miranda-Diaz walked a few steps, stopped, looked around, and then moved forward,” a trooper noted in the report. “Miranda did this three times in the short distance from the gate to the men’s bathroom.”
Authorities approached Miranda-Diaz and told him that his bag never left San Juan because of the “anomaly.”
“After I check it, how do I know what people do with it?’’ Miranda-Diaz allegedly responded. He denied knowledge of any drugs and said he had no idea why the cocaine would be found in his bag, according to the police report.
In an interview, Rosario told authorities that he was approached last week in San Juan by a muscular, heavily tattooed man named Pito, who had a reputation as a drug seller. Pito, according to Rosario, proposed that in exchange for transporting a large amount of money from San Juan to a hotel in Revere, he would pay Rosario $800 upon his return. Rosario said Pito drove him and Miranda-Diaz to the airport and gave them suitcases.
Authorities are investigating whether there was a third passenger who participated in the smuggling effort, based on statements Rosario allegedly made and surveillance footage from the airport in Puerto Rico.
This week’s incident follows two other recent arrests.
Last Saturday, Juan De Luna, 30, of Springfield, was arrested at Logan after allegedly transporting over 200 grams of cocaine in liquid form from the Dominican Republic. De Luna was linked to a cocaine seizure at JFK Airport in New York in August 2012, according to court records.
In December, Emmanuelli Rojas-Moraza, 33, of Puerto Rico, was charged with drug trafficking after authorities found nearly 4 kilograms of cocaine in the tires and frame of the wheelchair he was using. Rojas-Moraza was using the wheelchair for “no apparent medical purpose,” according to authorities. Rojas-Moraza was wearing a cast on one leg, but a doctor determined, based on X-rays, that he did not need it.