Guyanese Khamraj Lall, the pilot who smuggled large quantities of cocaine and currency between Guyana and the United States using his private jet, was yesterday sentenced to 13 years in jail for trafficking hundreds of pounds of cocaine into New Jersey and New York and laundering over US$10.2 million in proceeds from the drug trade.
U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson imposed the sentence on Lall, 52, of Ringwood, New Jersey, yesterday day in a Trenton, New Jersey federal court, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Thompson sentenced Lall to five years of supervised release. He had previously pleaded guilty to bulk cash smuggling and was sentenced in 2016 by US District Judge Jay A. Garcia-Gregory to one year in prison and his private jet and over half a million US dollars seized from him were forfeited to the US government.
Lall was found guilty last October by a federal jury of all eight counts of a superseding indictment, including conspiracy to distribute cocaine, money laundering, structuring monetary instruments, and conspiracy to commit money laundering and structuring.
The release noted that from documents filed in the case and evidence at the trial, from April 2011 through November 2014, Lall, a private pilot, smuggled hundreds of kilogrammes of cocaine from Guyana to New Jersey and New York on his privately owned jet aircraft and then laundered the proceeds.
“Lall, who owed a private jet charter business called Exec Jet Club based in Gainesville, Florida, used the proceeds of his cocaine empire to purchase jet planes, houses, and cars. He also paid over $2 million in cash stuffed into suitcases to a Florida contractor to build an airplane hangar in Guyana,” the release said.
“Over a 3-½ year period, Lall also made (or had others make) 1,287 cash deposits totaling approximately $7.5 million into more than 20 different bank accounts in New Jersey and New York, much of it in $20 bills. In order to avoid detection and circumvent bank reporting laws, all 1,287 deposits were for amounts less than [US]$10,000,” it added.
Lall was intercepted by authorities during a stopover in Puerto Rico to refuel his jet while flying from the U.S. to Guyana. A search of the plane uncovered $470,000 in cash stuffed into a suitcase hidden in the tail of the plane, and another $150,000 in cash hidden under a seat.
The court previously ordered Lall to forfeit his interest in two jet airplanes, two airplane hangars, multiple properties, a Lexus SUV, among other property traceable to his crimes. The Court also entered a money judgment against Lall for US$9.3 million.
The statement said U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents and task force officers of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur; the Morristown, New Jersey, police department, under the direction of Chief Peter Demnitz; special agents and staff of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Home-land Security Investigations (HSI) under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael; the Drug Enforcement Administration-Rochester, New York, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt; the Federal Aviation Administration, Law Enforcement Assistance Program; and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations Center under the direction of Richard T. Booth, with the investigation leading to the sentencing.
Lall had a private hangar at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri and he had also used his jet to fly then president Ramotar to Brazil on an official trip. Following his arrest in Puerto Rico, the PPP/C government had been strongly criticised for its connections to Lall and over his being given a private hangar.
Ramotar has since said that utilising Lall’s service was a cheaper option in all instances although he did not release a cost.
And although sources from both customs and immigration and the CJIA had said that Exec Jet staff, especially Lall, were granted waivers on security checks when coming into Guyana, former Transport Minister Robeson Benn had dismissed those claims that Lall was granted any waivers from regular CJIA security and customs protocol.
Lall and his co-conspirators deposited or directed others to deposit the cash proceeds from the cocaine distribution in amounts less than US$10,000 into various bank accounts, including but not limited to accounts in his name, his wife’s name, his mother’s name, the names of his three minor children, and in the names of his companies, Exec Jet Club, Exec Jet Sales, KL Express and Kaylees Investments.