Second guilty plea in New Jersey prison contraband drone drop scheme

new jersey prison drone

A few short months after an ex-convict received a sentence for making drone deliveries of contraband into the Fort Dix federal prison in New Jersey, a second former inmate has admitted to his role in the infamous aerial smuggling scheme.

Johansel Moronta, an inmate at Fort Dix from April 2018 to March 2019, has pleaded guilty to participating in multiple drone deliveries of contraband into Fort Dix while incarcerated. The 29-year-old has further admitted to violating the terms of his supervised release from custody.

Moronta’s admission comes months after former federal inmate, Jason Arteaga-Loayza, pleaded guilty to making drone deliveries of contraband cellphones, tobacco, and other items into the Fort Dix prison. Arteaga-Loayza was awarded a 43-month sentence for the same in September 2021.

Court documents reveal that Moronta’s role in the scheme was taking possession of the contraband that Arteaga-Loayza arranged to be dropped into the prison, and helped sell the items to inmates for a profit. The packages that Moronta helped to smuggle into FCI Fort Dix included cellphones, cellphone accessories, tobacco, weight loss supplements, and eyeglasses. From inside the prison, Moronta helped coordinate inmate requests for specific items of contraband and assisted in the collection of payments.

Moronta and his co-conspirators took various steps to prevent prison guards from detecting and intercepting the contraband. They planned drone drops during late evening hours or overnight when it was dark and the drones were less likely to be seen.

The drones were operated by two men, Adrian Goolcharran and Nicolo Denichilo, from concealed positions in the woods surrounding the New Jersey prison. The lights on the drones were covered with tape to make it more difficult for prison officials to spot the aircraft against the dark evening sky.

To coordinate the drone drops, Moronta used contraband cellphones concealed within the prison.

Also read: Atlanta man third to be sentenced in Georgia prison drone plot

Moronta admitted in court that, on Oct. 30, 2018, he received a bag dropped by a drone onto the roof of a housing unit at FCI Fort Dix, which contained contraband tobacco, cellphone chargers, and charging cables. Prison officials recovered that bag which contained 127 bags of Bugler tobacco, 10 cellphone chargers, and 10 USB charging cables.

Moronta now faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000 for the plea to possession of contraband while being a federal inmate.

However, the Union County, NJ, resident has also admitted to physically assaulting his girlfriend after his release from federal prison – for which he will face imprisonment of an additional 14 months.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2022.

Read more: Autonomous drones to respond to gunshots in new policing system

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