Federal agents foiled a $2.5 million cocaine-trafficking plot and arrested a “known Israeli-based drug trafficker and money launderer” who was extradited Thursday from Poland to Boston, acting US Attorney William D. Weinreb announced Thursday.
“Today, we have made progress in the fight against international drug trafficking by charging a Middle Eastern national with conspiring to transport millions of dollars in cocaine from Colombia through Boston to the Middle East,” Weinreb said at an afternoon press conference at US District Court in Boston.
Jalal Altarabeen, 33, an Israeli national, was detained after his initial appearance in court Thursday afternoon. He is charged with one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and six counts of international money laundering. He had not yet been arraigned or entered a plea.
A coconspirator, a Jordanian national whom authorities did not name, has been indicted, but Weinreb said the man was still at large.
According to court documents, an undercover federal agent first made contact with Altarabeen through the coconspirator in October 2015, when the coconspirator said a friend of his wanted to purchase “large quantities of cocaine.”
For the next five months, the coconspirator and Altarabeen conspired in Boston, Colombia, Poland, and elsewhere to distribute 50 kilograms of cocaine purchased from the agent, according to the documents and a statement from Weinreb’s office.
The price was set at $50,000 per kilogram, and the cocaine was set to be delivered in Israel, according to the statement. The undercover agent told Altarabeen and the coconspirator that the cocaine would be transported from Colombia to Boston, and then from Boston to Beersheba, Israel.
Altarabeen allegedly agreed to pay about $1 million up front and the remaining $1.5 when the cocaine arrived. He sent wire transfers from Turkey to a bank account in Boston, according to the court documents.
Altarabeen was arrested in Warsaw, after traveling to meet with the undercover agent and others, according to officials.
“This case exemplifies the importance of disrupting large-scale, international drug trafficking before the drugs can be distributed,” said Weinreb. “I cannot overstate how important it is that we interdict these large drug shipments, where and when we can.”
Altarabeen’s initial court appearance was brief, and his attorney declined to comment afterward.
Weinreb said that there were no allegations of violence against Altarabeen or his alleged coconspirator, though he noted that the international drug trade was a dangerous business.
Altarabeen had allegedly hoped to get the undercover agent to help him set up a front company in Israel for future operations.
Altarabeen is a “known Israeli-based drug trafficker and money launderer,” said Michael J. Ferguson, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration New England Field Division.
The DEA, he said, prioritizes its resources by targeting the “world’s biggest and most powerful” drug traffickers.Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.