A couple from Guatemala pleaded guilty to smuggling heroin and cocaine through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. 
Photo: File photo
Photo: File photo

Couple pleads guilty to smuggling drugs through Atlanta airport

A couple from Guatemala pleaded guilty to federal drug charges after they were caught smuggling heroin and cocaine through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Paola Valenzuela Arevalo, 39, and Herbert Jonathan Castillo Juarez, 42, facilitated the trafficking of illegal drugs into the United States and Europe for their drug organization, the Department of Justice said in a news release.

Authorities said the duo transported the drugs in several ways, and even used children to help move the illegal merchandise from Guatemala into the U.S. in 2015 and 2016. Much of the heroin was then delivered to major northeastern cities, including Philadelphia and New York, authorities said, while the cocaine ended up as far away as Switzerland and Norway. 

In July 2016, customs agents discovered two passengers were toting more than two kilograms of heroin in their luggage, authorities said. Both named Valenzuela and Castillo as their suppliers. 

Another person arrested during the investigation was a U.S. citizen who made four trips to Guatemala City at the couple’s direction, federal prosecutors said. He was arrested in August 2016 after swallowing a kilogram of heroin. 

One man arrested at the Atlanta airport in 2016 swallowed more than 950 grams of heroin ahead of his flight, authorities said. He told investigators he was recruited by Valenzuela and Castillo, who coordinated and oversaw his trafficking trip.

The couple was arrested two years ago while trying to smuggle cocaine they swallowed into Zurich, Switzerland, prosecutors said. 

Their sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 7.

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