True Crime Thursday – Smuggling Contraband into Prison by Drone


Photo credit: Kal Visuals-Unsplash

By Debbie Burke


So, you’re back on the street after doing time in the federal pen in Fort Dix, New Jersey. You want to earn a little extra income, presumably to pay your defense attorney, and to supply your buddies who are still inside. Nothing big, just cigarettes, cell phones, heroin, and fentanyl.

Why not use a drone to deliver packages—just like Amazon?   

Jason Ateaga-Loayza, AKA “Juice”, must have thought that was a good business plan even though he was on supervised release from Fort Dix, a low-security federal correctional facility.

Between October 2018 and June 2019, Juice and several co-conspirators smuggled contraband by drone into the prison. Juice communicated by cell phone texts with an accomplice who was still incarcerated. The accomplice took orders from inmates and collected payments. Juice gathered the requested items and stored them in his home. Then he and other accomplices hid in the woods surrounding Fort Dix and operated a drone from there, dropping packages inside the prison at night. They taped over the lights on the drone to prevent detection.

Evidently the operation succeeded for a while…until FBI agents searched Juice’s home. Officers turned up a closetful of empty cell phone boxes and tobacco containers matching items that had previously been dropped inside the prison. They also found enough heroin and fentanyl to charge him with possession with intent to distribute.

In April, 2021, Juice pleaded guilty to several charges and is scheduled for sentencing in September, 2021.

His high-flying entrepreneurial venture has been grounded.




Bad guys use a drone to surveil the good guys in Debbie Burke’s thriller Eyes in the Sky

Buy at Amazon or major online retailers. 

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About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with Passion. The first book in the series, Instrument of the Devil, won the Kindle Scout contest and the Zebulon Award. Additional books in the series are Stalking Midas, Eyes in the Sky, Dead Man's Bluff, Crowded Hearts, and Flight to Forever. Debbie's articles have won journalism awards in international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers.

38 thoughts on “True Crime Thursday – Smuggling Contraband into Prison by Drone

    • Corruption among correctional officers? I’m shocked, Ruth, shocked.

      True story: Recently I met a woman whose son is incarcerated and who’s a big reader. She wanted to send signed print versions of all my books to him but was not allowed to do it herself b/c of fear she was smuggling contraband. However, Amazon was allowed to ship the books directly to him.

  1. Interesting reporting, Debbie. I thought this was an intro to one of your books until the end. You kept my attention. And it was an intro. You grabbed my interest, and now I have another book to add to my must read list.


  2. I think Juice possesses much sought after business skills: He set a goal, drew up a plan, found a creative solution to logistics, put together an effective team, and managed the project. Plus, I think he won’t be deterred by his failure to continue that particular project.

  3. I’m impressed by the ingenuity of Juice. Truth really is stranger than fiction. Prisoners get so creative when they want something bad enough. Too bad they don’t use those same skills to become productive members of society.

    Love your new cover, Debbie!

    • Thanks, Sue.

      Juice is obviously an intelligent, enterprising guy. As Maxwell Smart said: “if only he could have used his evil genius for niceness.”

  4. I want a drone that looks like Santa’s sleigh and reindeer. I could send it to my kids’ homes to deliver presents to the wees. Wouldn’t that be fun? 🙂

    My son actually has a drone that he uses for his real estate development business-to take aerial views of his properties. It shoots up about 1,000 feet in about 10 seconds and gives you a view like you’re in a plane. It’s pretty cool.

    However, crime? My innocent one-track mind would’ve never guessed. I’m a firm believer that technology will bury us someday.

    • Deb, Santa’s sleigh drone is a fabulous business idea. Start customizing your drone now and by Christmas, you’ll be rich.

      Drones are really cool for wide aerial shots. You feel like a bird.

  5. Good true crime story. This clever criminal got by his lack of attention to detail — he should have ditched those empty cell phone boxes. Why did he keep them? As for the drugs — that was just plain dumb.
    Congratulations on your new book.

  6. I want a drone!! If only criminals (and I’m including those people who call wanting to scam you) would put half as much energy in doing something legal as they do illegal, they’d probably get rich. Love your true-crime stories.

  7. Congratulations on your book, Debbie! The cover is great.

    Juice sounds like a very enterprising guy. Maybe the FBI should hire him as a consultant.

    • Thanks, Kay.

      “Turning” criminals is how the FBI and many law enforcement agencies built their cybercrime units. Go to the experts.

  8. Your true crime piece today made me think of a real case back in 1990, Debbie, when a gunman hijacked a helicopter and had it flown into the exercise yard of Kent maximum security prison near Vancouver and plucked two inmates to freedom. This case got close to home because one of the inmates, Robert Ford who was serving life for murder, went to high school with my wife. The gunman, Allan Jupp – I later arrested him for murder and put him away for life. The Allan Jupp story, Below The Deck, is planned for the next in my based-on-true-crime series.

  9. Thanks for the great story, Debbie. It’s too bad this clown couldn’t have applied his intellectual gifts to something legitimate.

    Have a terrific Memorial Day weekend!

  10. Hi Debbie,
    Amazing the ingenuity some will apply to criminal enterprise. Clearly he didn’t apply it to disposing of packing materials and adequately hiding the illegal drugs.

    Love the book cover! Great tie-in anecdote to your novel, too 🙂

    • Thanks, Dale.

      The thrill of getting away with illegal acts drives many criminals. Unfortunately for them, they’re busy enjoying that excitement and ignore the details that trip them up.

  11. Criminals. The early innovators. Surprisingly or not so surprisingly, every visual media from Victorian photographs to the Internet has been pioneered and partially perfected by smut merchants.

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