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Avianca Drug Courier Sentenced

April 4, 1991 GMT

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) _ A drug courier aboard the Avianca flight that crashed near Kennedy International Airport last year has been sentenced to seven years to life in prison.

Jose Figueroa, 32, pleaded guilty last month to a reduced charge of second- degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

He originally was charged with first-degree criminal possession, which could have resulted in a 15 year to life prison term, said Nassau County district attorney spokesman Ed Grilli.

Authorities said Figueroa swallowed more than 100 packets of cocaine sealed in latex to smuggle the drugs into the country. He was one of 159 passengers aboard Avianca Flight 52, which ran out of fuel while circling Kennedy on Jan. 25, 1990.

The jet crashed in Cove Neck, killing 73 people.

Figueroa was sentenced Wednesday by Nassau County Court Judge Donald Belfi.

A second drug courier on the flight from Colombia already has been given a six year to life sentence on the same charge.