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Ex-inmate admits role in drone-smuggling scheme at N.J. federal prison

Jan. 11, 2022

By Jeff Goldman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

A former inmate at a federal prison in New Jersey admitted Monday he was part of a group that used drones to smuggle phones, tobacco and other items inside the minimum-security facility.

Johansel Moronta, 29, of Linden, is the second of four men charged to plead guilty for his role in the scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Monday.

Moronta was an inmate in the federal prison at Fort Dix for much of the eight-month span when two of his associates flew a drone over the prison when it was dark or during overnight hours and dropped packages of the contraband into the jail, prosecutors said.

The drones were flown from what prosecutors described as “concealed positions” in wooded areas surrounding the prison. The men accused of flying the drones — Adrian Goolcharran and Nicolo Denichilo — also covered the drone lights with tape to make them harder for guards to spot, officials said.

Moronta then collected the packages and sold them to other inmates who had placed “orders” with him previously.

Goolcharran and Denichilo were the first two charged — in March 2020 — after federal agents learned of at least seven deliveries by drone of contraband since July 2019.

Investigators seized smuggled items, including marijuana, steroids, more than 160 cell phones, 150 SIM cards, 74 cell phone batteries and chargers, 35 syringes and two metal saw blades, authorities said. Charges are pending against Goolcharran and Denichilo.

Prison officials also found an inmate — later identified as Moronta — near a drop site for the drone delivery who had 34 cell phones, along with several chargers, SIM cards and other telephone gear, authorities said.

One of Moronta’s partners — Jason Arteaga-Loayza, of Jersey City, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of possession of heroin and fentanyl with the intent to distribute. He was sentenced in September to three years and seven month in federal prison.

Arteaga-Loayza was an inmate at Fort Dix from June 2017 to September 2018. The drone deliveries began the following month and lasted until about June 2019, authorities said.

Moronta, who a prisoner at Fort Dix from April 2018 to March 2019, is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 10