To prosecutors, he was a willing accomplice in a drug trafficking ring: A Delta Air Lines employee at Logan International Airport who agreed to smuggle what he believed to be drug proceeds on a flight to Florida.
But lawyers for Dino Dunkley implemented an aggressive defense in the first day of his trial Monday, alleging it was government witnesses who set the 32-year-old Dunkley up in a sting, thereby entrapping him.
“This case is not about what happened, it’s about why, and how. How did Dino Dunkley find himself in such a precarious situation?” one of his lawyers, Samir Zaganjori, told jurors in the opening statements of Dunkley’s trial Monday.
Four of the five airport employees who were charged in September 2014 with smuggling more than $400,000 in cash past security check points have pleaded guilty. One of them is awaiting sentencing, and the others are serving prison terms ranging from a year to two years in prison.
But Dunkley, of Boston, is the only one to challenge the government’s accusations in a trial, and his lawyers argue that — while they agree he transported what he believed were drug proceeds — he did so only after being ensnared in a government-manufactured conspiracy.
“He didn’t go looking for trouble, trouble showed up at his door,” Zaganjori told jurors.
The investigation into wrongdoing by airport employees began in 2012. A former baggage handler who was convicted in a separate drug trafficking ring agreed to cooperate with authorities and reveal the conspiracy by airport employees in exchange for avoiding his deportation to his native Dominican Republic.
The baggage handler, Edwin Canelo, worked as an informant for authorities and led them to other airport employees who had been smuggling cash for drug traffickers. The investigation then expanded to other employees, including Dunkley, a customer service ramp agent at Delta who used his security clearance to smuggle $50,000 on two separate occasions in early 2014, allegedly believing he was working for Canelo and drug traffickers. Authorities had been monitoring his conversations all along.
“It ain’t my first rodeo,” Dunkley had said, Assistant US Attorney Maxim Grinberg told jurors.
Zaganjori told jurors that the comments were only the bravado of a nervous man who thought he was speaking to real drug dealers. By then, Zaganjori said, Dunkley was desperate: He and his wife were facing eviction proceedings, her car was repossessed, and they were struggling to pay child support.
“I’d suggest to you that the evidence is going to show entrapment, because Dino Dunkley reached his breaking point,” Zaganjori said.
A Delta spokesperson has said that the airline cooperated in the investigation. The case is slated to resume Tuesday.