NEWARK, N.J. – A New Jersey mail carrier regularly received and distributed cocaine shipments in falsely addressed packages along her route on behalf of a drug trafficking organization based in Puerto Rico, federal authorities said Tuesday.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey said Christina Nuñez has admitted intercepting packages of cocaine from Puerto Rico and passing them to a co-conspirator in Camden.
Prosecutors say Nuñez, who was assigned to a post office in Secaucus, was responsible for moving more than 18 kilograms of cocaine from October 2010 until her arrest Aug. 24, 2012.
The 30-year-old from Lyndhurst is charged with conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine and mail theft.
Her boyfriend has also been arrested and charged.
The approximate street value of the drugs wasn't immediately available.
Federal authorities were alerted to the scheme after postal inspectors seized an express mail package in February 2011 containing 1,569 grams of cocaine that had been addressed to a location along Nuñez's route, according to a criminal complaint.
Investigators then found that packages with similar weights and sequential tracking numbers — but bearing false or inaccurate addresses — had been sent along Nuñez's route dating back to October 2010, according to court papers.
Prosecutors said Nuñez switched to receiving packages at her Lyndhurst residence while out on medical leave, or to her boyfriend's former addresses.
Authorities then found a package destined for Nuñez's route that contained cocaine concealed in a bag of coffee, court papers said.
Investigators replaced the drugs with a false substance, inserted a GPS tracking device into the package, and began conducting surveillance of Nuñez along her route and monitoring the inside of her mail truck via video.
Nuñez failed to deliver the package containing the GPS device, according to the complaint, and instead returned home with it.
The complaint said Nuñez and her boyfriend admitted after their arrests that Nuñez had been receiving packages addressed to her route that she knew contained controlled substances from a drug trafficking organization in Puerto Rico.
Prosecutors say Nuñez has admitted intercepting the packages, scanning them as delivered and then sending them instead to a co-conspirator in Camden in exchange for $500 to $600 per package, according to the complaint.
It's not clear if Nuñez has hired a lawyer. She's due for her first appearance in Newark federal court on Tuesday afternoon.