Ex-inmate admits role in federal prison smuggling scheme

Posted at 4:17 PM, January 11, 2022 and last updated 9:55 PM, July 18, 2023

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Another former inmate at a federal prison in New Jersey has admitted his role in a scheme to use drones to smuggle drugs and other contraband to inmates into the facility.

Johansel Moronta, 29, of Linden, pleaded guilty Monday to possessing and obtaining contraband while in prison and violating his federal parole. He faces more than a year in prison when he’s sentenced Feb. 10.

Johansel Moronta (Roselle Park Police Dept.)

Moronta was among four men charged in the plot to smuggle items into the prison at Fort Dix. Another defendant pleaded guilty last year and charges are pending against the other two.

Moronta, an inmate at Fort Dix from April 2018 to March 2019, was involved in multiple drone deliveries of contraband into the facility while he was incarcerated there and helped sell the items to inmates for a profit, federal prosecutors said.

The packages he helped smuggle in contained cell phones and related accessories, tobacco, weight loss supplements, eyeglasses and various other items. Moronta also helped coordinate inmate orders for specific items and assisted in the collection of payments.

Prosecutors said the conspirators took various steps to prevent prison officials from detecting and intercepting the contraband. They planned drone drops during late evening hours or overnight when the drones were less likely to be seen. The drones were flown from concealed positions in the woods surrounding the prison, and their lights were covered with tape to make it more difficult for prison officials to spot the drones.