By Jennifer Vazquez
A U.S. Postal Service worker and her boyfriend were officially charged on Aug. 27 in connection with a plot to allegedly use the postal system to intercept drug- laden packages from Puerto Rico to New Jersey.
Christina Nunez, 30, a mail carrier in Secaucus, and Luis A. Vega, 36, both of Lyndhurst, were charged with the alleged scheme, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman in an official press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office –District of New Jersey.
Nunez and Vega were arrested on Aug. 24 after law enforcement linked them to a package containing cocaine mailed from Puerto Rico.
Around February 1, 2011, “inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seized about 1,569 grams of cocaine from an express mail package that was addressed to ‘Linda Schwartz’ at 5000 Riverside Station Blvd., Secaucus,” according to the criminal complaint.
Federal lawmen say that, through her line of work, Nunez was supposed to deliver the package; however, officials seized it.
Further investigation revealed that Nunez had received packages of a “similar weight and sequential tracking numbers from approximately three locations in Puerto Rico since October 2010.”
In December 2011, law enforcement discovered similar packages to the one seized in February of that same year.
“Once again, (these packages) were being sent from Puerto Rico to addresses that would be assigned to Christina Nunez’s mail route,” according to the complaint.
In each case, the name of the recipient of those packages, did not match the delivery addresses.
The complaint goes on to say that, roughly, between February 2011 and May 2012, at least four packages “suspected of containing controlled substances were mailed to Luis A. Vega’s former residence in Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey” –though he currently resides in Lyndhurst with Nunez.
Though on medical leave between February 2012 until May 2012, Nunez was still receiving packages “suspected of containing narcotics at her residence in Lyndhurst.”
On Aug. 22, law enforcement agents were made aware of a package, similar to others in the investigation, which was en route from Dorado, Puerto Rico. After the package arrived at the U.S. Postal Service Express Mail Facility in Kearny, law enforcement discovered that the delivery address on the package would be assigned to Nunez’s mail route.
After authorities were drawn to a package, with the aid of a trained narcotics canine, law enforcement officials opened the package and discovered a “white powdery substance” that tested positive for cocaine and weighed about 600 grams. They replaced the cocaine with a “sham” similar in consistency and appearance to cocaine and placed the package into circulation for it to be delivered, according to the complaint.
Additionally, officials conducted “physical surveillance” and lawful monitoring via video of Nunez’s mail truck. They also placed a GPS tracking device within the package.
After ending her shift — and having failed to deliver the package — Nunez returned home to Lyndhurst with the parcel where she was taken into custody along with Vega, according to the complaint.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged Nunez with “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine, (as well as) mail theft.”
Vega has been charged with “conspiring with Nunez to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of 500 grams or more of cocaine.”
Fishman has credited U.S. Postal Inspection Service inspectors, U.S Postal Service –Office of Inspector General, and special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, with the investigation leading up to the arrests of Nunez and Vega.
Nunez is represented by Assistant Public Defender – Newark Carol Gillen, Vega is represented by Hoboken based attorney Paul Casteleiro, The Government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary E. Toscano.