- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 7, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) - The husband of a top aide to New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has been charged with conspiring to import cocaine into the U.S.

Orlando Dennis, the husband of Heastie’s chief of staff, Jevonni Brooks-Dennis, was arrested Monday at New York’s Kennedy Airport after returning to the U.S. from a trip to Jamaica, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said.

He was released on a $150,000 bond after an initial court appearance Monday afternoon. His attorney didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Prosecutors said the charges involved three kilograms of cocaine hidden inside a piece of luggage from Jamaica that was discovered last June on a baggage carousel at Kennedy airport.

Surveillance footage and cell phone records helped authorities identify two people who were involved in smuggling the bag, prosecutors said, including a cargo handling company employee. Both people were arrested last year, pleaded guilty and now await sentencing.

A Homeland Security special agent said in a criminal complaint that Dennis was linked to the case through cell phone evidence showing he’d been on “an unusual volume of calls” with one of those suspects.

When Dennis arrived in New York after his latest trip to Jamaica, border agents searched his phone and discovered a photo of the bag and messages about it that he’d exchanged with the other defendants, authorities said.

The complaint said Dennis “admitted knowing that the bag was involved in some kind of illegality” but “denied knowing that the bag contained drugs.”

If convicted, Dennis could face a minimum of five years in prison, prosecutors said.

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