By: Tony Best
U.S. Law enforcement officials called it the “Bourne Organization,” a sophisticated, multi-million dollar drug trafficking ring that used Caribbean airports staging areas to smuggle hundreds of pounds of cocaine into New York.
Now that the “feds” have dismantled the illegal operation, Victor Bourne, an Obeah practicing Bajan who allegedly masterminded the criminal network that used commercial passenger aircraft in Barbados, New York and several Caribbean countries to bring huge quantities of bulk cocaine into the U.S. will spend the rest of his life in a federal prison trying to figure what went wrong with his slick operation that reportedly netted him and his crooked baggage handling crew at JFK and Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados millions of dollars over a decade.
An unusual twist to the story is how Bourne and his mother, Maria Alleyne, may have turned to obeah or voodoo which they reportedly practiced in Barbados and New York in a vain attempt to put a curse on U.S. federal prosecutors responsible for hauling 37 year old Victor before a federal court in Brooklyn.
Of course, the curse didn’t materialize and when Bourne’s relatives and other supporters who turned up in court at his sentencing the look on their faces told much of the story about their feelings as they fought back tears when Federal District Judge, Nicholas Garaulis, slapped Victor with three life terms, plus 35 additional years, not simply for importing the drugs but endangering the lives of unsuspecting passengers on board American Airlines flights. The corrupt baggage handlers had dismantled sensitive parts of the aircraft in order to store the drugs, prosecutors charged.
“The need to protect the public from these kinds of dangers requires a long sentence,” said Judge Garaufis as he imposed the tough sentence on Bourne who declined to plead guilty but took his chances in court. He lost and must now do the time. As the jurist saw it, much to Bourne’s chagrin, the acts of the West Indian had placed “hundreds of passengers' lives at risk.”
And looking at the convicted smuggler, Garaufis said “you personally exacerbated one of this nation’s greatest blights.”
During the trial, the court heard how Bourne and his accomplices allegedly used their knowledge of different aircraft to stash the illegal cargo and bring it into the U.S. For example, the baggage handlers dismantled a part of a wing to hide the drugs. When it came to 757 jets, they concealed bricks of cocaine among loose bags of freight. In the much larger 767s, they hid the drugs in containers filled with luggage and then put them into the plane’s cargo hold. When it came to the A300s, they used spaces behind walls and ceiling panels in the hold. And how did they manage to get all of this done for so long without being detected? Evidence suggested that some, not all, supervisors looked the other hand after being allegedly paid off by Bourne.
What angered the judge, a former chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration was that the smugglers made changes to the planes that could have brought them down during flight causing a major catastrophe.
But that’s not all the handlers were up to. Evidence in court disclosed how they broke into passenger’s luggage and stole their computers, liquor, perfume and other expensive items for years.
In all, 20 people have either confessed to their crimes or were found guilty. One who didn’t confess was Bourne who took to the stand and denied any knowledge of or involvement in the smuggling operation, insisting that the witnesses lied on him.
But Judge Garaulis said that it was Bourne who didn’t tell the truth, referring to perjured testimony in court. He said that it was greed that jeopardized passenger safety because the ring’s actions could have triggered a deadly incident.
That’s not all to the story. Court documents indicated that Bourne’s mother, who believes in the practice of voodoo, even traveled to Africa, consulted and paid a witchdoctor to put a curse on the two federal prosecutors handling her son’s case. That bizarre side of the tale was discovered when Alleyne came back to the U>S. from Africa and was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers who stopped her and found photographs of the prosecutors among her personal effects. At first the authorities thought it was part of an assassination plot but on further investigations they concluded that obeah was at work.
In the end, Alleyne was found innocent of money laundering in connection with the drug smuggling but she admitted to the voodoo plot and wasn’t charge because the practice of obeah isn’t a crime in the U.S. It’s considered a religious belief that’s protected by the American constitution. The authorities also failed to prove she had used shoe stores in Barbados and Brooklyn to engage in illegal money dealings.
“Alleyne later admitted …that she traveled to Africa to pay an individual to place a hex in the form of a witchdoctor’s curse on the assistant U.S. attorneys,” stated a court document.