Two U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have been arrested on charges of accepting bribes and smuggling counterfeit watches and sunglasses and 600 pounds of hashish through customs at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Officers Walter Golembiowski and John Ajello are accused of being part of an alleged smuggling ring that was the focus of a three-year investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force. The investigation resulted in the arrest of seven people, including Kai Li and Wei Lam, who are accused of running the operation that imported counterfeit Rolex, Cartier, and Chanel watches, as well as designer sunglasses and hashish valued at more than $500,000. A spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Erin Mulvey, said the group also plotted to smuggle the drug Ecstasy into the country.
The drugs and counterfeit items arrived at JFK on large commercial planes coming from an Asian country. Ms. Mulvey would not specify which one. She said that during the course of the three-year investigation, the smugglers imported thousands of pounds of contraband at monthly intervals.
Throughout the arrival and transportation of the illegal goods, Mr. Golembiowski, a 65-year-old who lives in Bethpage, "was just looking the other way," Ms. Mulvey charged. Mr. Golembiowski was captured on video and audio equipment accepting bribes and holding meetings with the other defendants, she said.
"We've all had this problem in our own agencies over the years," the special agent in charge of the New York Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Peter Smith, said of the investigation. "It causes a black eye on your agency, but all the bosses, we're always happy to get rid of the bad apples."
Mr. Golembiowski has been charged with narcotics importation conspiracy and bribery conspiracy. Ms. Li was detained with bail set at $1 million and Mr. Lam was remanded.