Israeli national indicted on federal drug charges

February 16, 2017 GMT

An Israeli national accused of trying to transport millions of dollars worth of cocaine through Boston to the Middle East is facing a raft of charges thanks to an undercover investigation Acting U.S. Attorney William B. Weinreb hailed yesterday as “progress in the fight against international drug trafficking.”

Jalal Altarabeen, 33, arrived in Boston at 12:40 p.m. after he was arrested by Polish authorities on an American warrant and shipped back to the United States by U.S. Marshals. Altarabeen is facing a slew of federal charges including international money laundering and conspiracy to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.

If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Authorities say Altarabeen made a deal with an undercover agent working with the Drug Enforcement Agency to pay $2.5 million for 50 kilos of cocaine, which were to be brought from Columbia through Boston to their final destination in Israel.

“Boston is a significant transshipment point for drugs and a significant destination for drugs, this was an extremely high quantity amount of cocaine,” Weinreb said during a news conference yesterday. “Boston is the biggest city in New England and often a point where drugs come in. We have a serious drug problem here — as you all know — and that’s the result of drugs coming in through the city.”

In six separate transactions last February, Altarabeen wired nearly $1 million from a bank in Turkey, according to an affidavit prepared by Lowell cop Shaun T. Santos.

On Feb. 9, 2016, two undercover agents met with Alatarabeen in Bogota, Columbia to arrange the drug transaction, Santos wrote. The deal was supposed to be the first of a series of transactions aimed at exporting drugs from Columbia to Israel by using Boston as a midway point, according to the affidavit.

At his initial appearance in federal court in Boston yesterday, prosecutors asked that Altarabeen remain in custody. A detention hearing and arraignment were set for next Tuesday.

Another suspect in the plot, a Jordanian national, has been charged but remains at large, Weinreb said, declining to offer any details.

Weinreb opened the press conference by citing an executive order signed last week by President Trump that directed federal agencies to share intelligence and submit a report in four months detailing the progress they’ve made toward combatting transnational drug cartels. He called the investigation “progress in the fight against international drug trafficking.”

“This case exposes the importance of interrupting large scale drug trafficking before the drugs can be distributed,” he added.