Two North Jersey men are accused of using drones to smuggle drugs, cellphones and saw blades into a federal prison at Fort Dix.
Investigators suspect at least seven drone drops occurred since July 2018 at the prison in Burlington County, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey said Friday.
It said the airborne deliveries included shipments of marijuana, tobacco and steroids, as well as phone chargers, syringes and Just for Men hair coloring.
One suspect, 38-year-old Nicolo Denichilo of Jersey City, was arrested Thursday after an alleged drone drop at the prison, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
It said investigators on Thursday evening approached Denichilo and another man “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 men fled, and Denichilo was apprehended hiding in a ditch,” the statement said.
His alleged accomplice — Adrian Goolcharran, 35, of Union City — remains at large, the statement said.
An inmate near the area of the drone drop was found with “a package wrapped in a black plastic bag with fishing line attached,” says a criminal complaint.
The package’s contents include more than 30 cellphones, nine chargers and multiple earbuds.
Agents also seized an SUV near the launch site that had a drone in the backseat, the complaint said.
Several overnight deliveries went awry, including two in September and October 2019 when drones became stuck in trees. Officers recovered multiple plastic bags that held dozens of cellphones and other forms of contraband, the complaint noted.
The prison, known as FCI Fort Dix, is a low security facility with an adjacent minimum security camp.
They were charged with smuggling contraband into the prison and conspiring to smuggle contraband and to defraud the federal government.
The statement alleged Goolcharran used cellphones to coordinate drone drops, “including text messaging aerial shots of locations at Fort Dix.”
It alleged a surveillance camera earlier this month showed a man resembling Goolcharran and another individual “carrying and flying a drone from a launch spot located in the woods outside of Fort Dix.”
“Law enforcement also obtained evidence of Goolcharran bringing multiple drones to a store for repairs,” it said.
The statement said fingerprint and DNA evidence also linked the men to the alleged scheme.
The Hudson County men are charged with smuggling contraband into the prison and conspiring to smuggle contraband and to defraud the federal government.
Denichilo was released on $100,000 unsecured bond after a hearing Friday in Trenton federal court.