American Airlines Haitian Security Director Charged with Smuggling Drugs

MIAMI (AP) -- American Airlines' director of security at Haiti's main airport has been arrested by the U.S. government on charges that she smuggled millions of dollars worth of cocaine to the United States aboard the airline's planes.

Stephanie Ambroise, who worked at Port-au-Prince airport, was arrested Thursday and charged with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, officials said Friday. She made a brief appearance in Miami federal court Friday and was ordered held until a Tuesday hearing.

She is the latest Haitian official to be indicted in the United States for drug smuggling. Others include the former national police director, the former national police commander, the former Haitian anti-drug chief, the former Port-au-Prince airport police commander and a Haitian senator.

According to an indictment unsealed Friday, Ambroise would ``coordinate and receive suitcases and other merchandise containing cocaine to pass through airport security.'' In return, she first received $1,000 per kilogram and eventually raised her price to $2,000 per kilogram. She required that each container hold a minimum of 100 kilograms or 2,200 pounds. At the latter price, that would have netted her at least $2 million per container. The operation allegedly ran from 1999 to 2003.

Confidential sources told investigators that Ambroise worked with a Haitian drug trafficker named Serge Edouard and that they made two to three shipments monthly, according to the indictment.

The suitcases and other containers would be taken to Ambroise's husband the night before the shipment and she would put numbered shipping tags on them, according to the indictment. She would then call an airport worker, give him the tag numbers and he would put the bags onboard U.S.-bound flights. American flies from Haiti to Miami, New York and Boston.

Carlos B. Castillo, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, did not know whether charges have been filed against Edouard or Ambroise's husband, whose name was not given in his wife's indictment. He also did not know where Ambroise was arrested or if cocaine was smuggled to all three U.S. cities. He said the office would have no immediate comment on the arrest.

American Airlines spokeswoman Martha Pantin would only say that the company is cooperating with authorities. She refused to say whether the airline is changing of its security procedures in Haiti because of Ambroise's arrest.

The federal public defender's office said it had not yet been assigned to represent Ambroise and she does not have a private attorney.