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Former Inmate Admits Role in Scheme to Use Drones to Smuggle Contraband into Fort Dix Federal Prison

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Linden NJ, A Union County, man today admitted his role in a scheme to use drones to smuggle contraband, including cell phones and tobacco, into the federal correctional facility at Fort Dix, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Johansel Moronta, 29, of Linden, New Jersey, a former inmate at Fort Dix, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to an information charging him with one count of possessing and obtaining contraband while in prison. Moronta, who had been released from custody several months after the offense occurred and was on federal supervised release thereafter, also pleaded guilty to violating the terms of his supervised release.

Another former federal inmate, Jason Arteaga-Loayza, previously pleaded guilty to his participation in the scheme as well as to distributing narcotics and was sentenced in September 2021 to 43 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton. Two other men, Adrian Goolcharran, aka “Adrian Ahoda,” aka “Adrian Ajoda,” aka “Adrian Ajodha,” and Nicolo Denichilo, also have been charged with participating in the scheme to use drones to smuggle contraband into Fort Dix prison.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Moronta, an inmate at Fort Dix from April 2018 to March 2019, participated in multiple drone deliveries of contraband into Fort Dix while incarcerated. Between October 2018 and June 2019, Arteaga-Loayza arranged for Goolcharran, with Denichilo’s assistance, to fly drones over Fort Dix and drop packages of contraband into the prison, where Moronta took possession of the contraband and helped sell it to inmates for a profit. The packages that Moronta helped to smuggle in to FCI Fort Dix included cell phones, cell phone accessories, tobacco, weight loss supplements, eyeglasses, and various other items. Moronta, from inside the prison, helped coordinate inmate requests for specific items of contraband and assisted in the collection of payments.

Moronta’s conspirators took various steps to prevent BOP officials from detecting and intercepting the contraband. They planned drone drops during the late evening hours or overnight when it was dark and the drones were less likely to be seen. Goolcharran, the drone pilot, with Denichilo’s assistance, flew the drones from concealed positions in the woods surrounding the prison. The lights on the drones were covered with tape to make it more difficult for prison officials to spot the drones against the dark evening sky.

Moronta and his conspirators used cell phones, including contraband phones concealed within the prison, to coordinate the drone drops. A contraband cell phone used by Moronta while an inmate at Fort Dix contained text messages with Arteaga-Loayza about the collection of profits from the sale of the contraband inside of the prison. In one exchange, for instance, Moronta messaged Arteaga-Loayza about an inmate, “Ok so I am tell him 10 phones and 100 baco [i.e. tobacco] he has to pay 10 bands and 500 on each phone?”  Arteaga-Loayza responded, “And well (sic) even give him an ounce of weed tell him.”

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 cell phone chargers and 10 USB charging cables. Moronta also admitted to possessing a contraband cell phone on that date, which he had used to coordinate the drone drop.

During a search of Arteaga-Loayza’s residence on June 27, 2019, agents found a kitchen closet containing packages of empty cell phone boxes, including a package with empty cell phone boxes that had been shipped to Arteaga-Loayza the day before the drone drop of Oct. 30, 2018, cell phone chargers, empty boxes of SIM cards, and several cell phones.

Moronta also admitted to physically assaulting his girlfriend in June of 2021 while at a gas station in Fort Lee, after his release from federal prison.

Moronta faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and maximum fine of $100,000 for the plea to possession of contraband while being a federal inmate. Moronta also agreed to a term of imprisonment of 14 months for violating the terms of his supervised release by assaulting his girlfriend, a term which will be served consecutively to whatever term of imprisonment he receives for the contraband charge. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2022.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited agents of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, Cyber Investigations Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Keith A. Bonanno; the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 307, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Kaplan; and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Joseph Harris, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

He also thanked Federal Bureau of Prisons personnel at Fort Dix; special agents of the FBI; special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office; and officers with the Pemberton Borough Police Department; the Pemberton Township Police Department; and Chesterfield Township Police Department, for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the criminal complaints issued against the remaining defendants are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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