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Air Force Featured Stories

OSI aids investigation resulting in charges of using drones to smuggle contraband into a federal prison

  • Published
  • Office of Special Investigations Public Affairs

In the early morning hours of March 13, special agents from the Office of Special Investigations’ Field Investigations Region 3, Detachment 307, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, successfully concluded a 19-month-long joint operation with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General.

The investigation led to two Hudson County men being charged with conspiring to use drones to smuggle contraband, including marijuana, steroids, syringes, cell phones and cell phone equipment, into the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix, adjacent to JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

The operation culminated March 12, when law enforcement agents, including agents from OSI, approached suspects at a launch site near Fort Dix, minutes after Fort Dix officials had observed a drone flying over a housing unit at the prison. Both suspects fled, and one suspect was apprehended hiding in a ditch near the launch site. Fort Dix officials also found an inmate in the area of the drone drop inside the prison in possession of 34 cell phones, nine chargers, 51 SIM cards and other telephone equipment. They also seized an SUV near the launch site outside of the prison that contained the drone in the backseat.

The first drone was observed hovering above the roof of one of the housing units at the Fort Dix prison in July of 2018 and a bag of contraband was subsequently discovered on the roof. Since the initial drone drop, there is evidence of at least six additional drone drops.

Contraband that has been seized by authorities pursuant to the intercepted drone drops into Fort Dix includes marijuana, steroids, more than 160 cell phones, 150 SIM cards, 74 cell phone batteries and chargers, 35 syringes and two metal saw blades.

The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and maximum fine of $250,000 while the contraband smuggling count carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

OSI became involved due to concern that the drone’s flight path was in direct conflict with the flight path of Air Force aircraft, and concerns about the counterterrorism and force protection vulnerabilities posed by drone payloads that might otherwise target facilities or personnel on JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations, and the suspects are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

OSI is the federal law enforcement and counterintelligence agency of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force. OSI special agents are assigned to more than 260 field units around the world, serving the needs of their aligned commands.