Military cargo loader who admitted smuggling Ecstasy on military plane gets more than 17 years

By: LARRY NEUMEISTER - Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A military cargo loader who admitted smuggling thousands of Ecstasy pills aboard a U.S. Air Force jet from New York to Germany was sentenced Friday to 17.5 years in prison.

Master Sgt. John Fong was sentenced to the same prison term as the U.S. military pilot who flew the jet. U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl rejected Fong's plea for leniency.

Fong, 38, apologized for his role in the April 2005 flight, saying it was devastating to himself and his family.

"I shamed my name, disgraced the unit," he said as 13 family members sat behind him in court. "I accept responsibility for what I've done. I know what I did, and I'm sorry."

Fong played a critical role because his status as the flight officer in charge of loading cargo enabled him to sneak much more of the drug onto the plane, Koeltl said.

Fong made at least four trips on a military jet to carry drugs to the United States. He expected to be paid $85,000 for the final trip, which ended in his arrest along with the pilot, Capt. Franklin Rodriguez, the judge said.

The two, both of New York City, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to conspiring to import into the United States and conspiring to possess and distribute Ecstasy.

The men were arrested after flying the Air Force plane from Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., to Germany and returning to Newburgh.

Federal law enforcement agents watched Fong load bags and boxes into a BMW before approaching the men and asking to inspect their possessions, in which 28 bags of pills were found, authorities said.

Ecstasy is a synthetic drug considered part hallucinogen, part amphetamine.