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New York man in wheelchair detained in Rhode Island after over 13 kilos of drugs seized



PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A New York man has been ordered detained in Rhode Island on federal drug trafficking charges after Customs and Border Protection agents at T.F. Green International Airport located more than thirteen kilograms of cocaine inside a carry-on bag alleged to have been in the man’s possession when he disembarked in a wheelchair from a direct flight from the Dominican Republic on September 28, 2023, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

It is alleged in charging documents that 46-year-old Richard Pineda Novas of Bronx, N.Y., was among passengers on a flight from Santo Domingo. After initial screening upon his arrival in Rhode Island, Pineda was referred for secondary inspection based on a CBP notice that he was allegedly linked to an individual who had been arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in 2021, while importing approximately 14.95 Kilograms of cocaine that were concealed in a wheelchair.

According to the charging documents, a carry-on bag located near Pineda after his arrival at T.F. Green International Airport was found to contain twelve rectangular brick-like packages wrapped in plastic and tape, consistent with the manner in which cocaine is packaged. One of the packages was more closely inspected by CBP agents and was alleged to have been found to contain cocaine. The total weight of the twelve packages was approximately 13.28 kilograms. Also located inside the bag was a bible that contained a paycheck from a New Jersey company in Pineda’s name and a voided check/direct deposit slip from a New York bank that listed Penda as the payee.

It is alleged that Pineda initially denied that the carry-on bag belonged to him; he later claimed to CBP agents that he had been given the bag by someone whose name he did not know and that he did not know who was going to pick up the package in the United States.

Pineda is charged by way of a federal criminal complaint with a charge of conspiracy to distribute and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; as well as a charge of distribution of, and possession with intent to distribute, a controlled substance. A federal criminal complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Denise M. Barton.

The matter is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection, Port of Providence.

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