NEWARK, NJ – A Union County, New Jersey man has been charged with conspiring to use drones to smuggle contraband, including tobacco, cell phone chargers, and a cell phone, into the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix.
Johansel Moronta, 27, of Linden, New Jersey, an inmate at Fort Dix from April 2018 to March 2019, was charged with one count of conspiring to smuggle contraband into the prison and to defraud the United States and one count of being a federal inmate possessing and obtaining, and attempting to possess and obtain, contraband.
Three other men, Adrian Goolcharran, Nicolo Denichilo, and Jason Arteaga Loayza previously have been charged with participating in the scheme to use drones to smuggle contraband into Fort Dix.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Moronta, while incarcerated at the federal prison at Fort Dix, allegedly participated in a scheme in October of 2018 to use unmanned aircrafts, or drones, to deliver contraband to inmates. Moronta's role in the scheme was to coordinate the drone drops with Goolcharran and Arteaga from within the prison, and then retrieve the contraband after the drone, piloted by Goolcharran, had dropped the contraband inside the facility.
Officials say that on October 30, 2018 at approximately 1:40am, Fort Dix officers observed a drone with fishing line hovering above the rooftop of an inmate housing unit. Officers found Moronta leaving a bathroom in the area where the bag of contraband dropped from the drone had been found, along with bolts that secured an open rooftop hatch used to access the delivery. Officers also found a cell phone that Moronta used to coordinate drone drops with Arteaga and Goolcharran. The phone contained numerous text messages and phone calls exchanged between Moronta, Goolcharran and Arteaga in the days leading up to the drop. On October 27, 2018, Moronta sent a text message to Goolcharran referring to himself as “Joe [expletive] in fort dix on the rooftop.” On October 30, at 12:07 a.m., Moronta sent a text message to Goolcharran asking “U in the area,” and Goolcharran responded “Yea.,” likely meaning that Goolcharran was near Fort Dix and available to make the drone drop. At 12:36 a.m., Goolcharran messaged Moronta “How we lookin,” and Moronta responded a few minutes later with “It ok.” Moronta also sent messages to Arteaga at 12:57 a.m., stating “Two trip,” likely referring to the number of drone flights planned, and “Same cop from last week,” likely referring to the corrections officer on duty.
Moronta also coordinated other drone drops with Arteaga and Goolcharran. Location data from Goolcharran’s cell phone confirmed that Goolcharran’s cell phone was in the Fort Dix area during the early morning hours of October 24, 2018, and began to depart the area by about 1:54 a.m. that same morning. In addition, evidence obtained from Moronta’s cell phone revealed numerous communications between Moronta, Arteaga, and Goolcharran on October 23 and October 24, 2018, showing the three men coordinating multiple drone drops.
The offenses charged in the complaint carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and maximum fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy count and one year in prison and $100,000 maximum fine for the possessing or obtaining contraband count.