Two New Jersey men face charges that they used drones to smuggle contraband such as marijuana, steroids, syringes and cell phones into a civilian prison located on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Nicolo Denichilo, 38, of Jersey City, and Adrian Goolcharran, 35, of Union City, were both charged on March 12 after federal law enforcement agents learned of a scheduled drop at the Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution.
Denichilo was arrested and released on a $100,000 bond pending his next court appearance. Goolcharran first fled the scene but later surrendered to authorities and had a court appearance Tuesday. He was also released on a $100,000 bond, according to a justice department release.
If convicted,the men face up to five years a piece in federal prison and fines as high as $350,000 for conspiracy and smuggling contraband.
The prison is located on JBL in Burlington County, New Jersey but is not a military prison. It is, however, the largest federal prison by inmate numbers in the United States, housing more than 3,000 prisoners in the low security facility and adjacent minimum security satellite camp, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.
The original Fort Dix began as Camp Dix in 1917 for troops headed to fight in World War I. It served in the same capacity during World War II. Following the war, it became an Army basic training site and later home to the 69th Infantry Division, according to a historical timeline by the Burlington County Times.
It also served a pivotal role in staging and training troops deployed during the Vietnam War and subsequent conflicts, to include Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2005, the fort became part of the combined Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Prison officials could not immediately be reached for comment but declined to comment to local media when the arrests were announced pending an ongoing investigation.
Agents with the justice department’s Office of Inspector General obtained evidence that at least seven drone deliveries had occurred since July 2018 containing contraband.
Goolcharran allegedly used cell phones to coordinate the drops with others by using text messages and aerial photos of the drop locations at Fort Dix. On the same day as a drop in April 2019 local police stopped a vehicle with both Denichilo and Goolcharran less than five miles from the facility.
On March 7, 2020, a man fitting Goolcharran’s description and another person were spotted by a surveillance camera carrying and flying a drone from a launch spot in the woods near Fort Dix.
Police also found evidence of Goolcharran bringing multiple drones to a store for repairs. That included a broken drone brought in shortly after the March 7 flight.
On March 12, police approached Denichilo and another individual at a launch site near Fort Dix only minutes after Fort Dix officials saw a drone flying over the prison housing unit.
Both men fled, but Denichilo was apprehended hiding in a ditch near the launch site.
Prison officials found an inmate inside the facility, near the drone drop site, with 34 cell phones, nine chargers, 51 SIM cards and other phone equipment.
An SUV seized near the launch site had a drone in the backseat.
As part of intercepting drone drops at the prison, officials have recovered more than 150 cell phones, 150 SIM cards, 74 cell phone batteries, chargers, 35 syringes and two metal saw blades.
Investigators recovered Denichilo’s fingerprints from a plastic bag at one of the drone drops. And DNA from Goolcharran was recovered from electrical tape used on the July 2018 drone drop.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.