Two TSA airport security employees have been arrested on drug trafficking and corruption charges after federal authorities accused them of taking bribes that allowed shipments of hard drugs to pass through checkpoints in a Los Angeles airport.
The two security officers, along with two former screeners, were arrested on Tuesday and early Wednesday for allowing drugs to pass through x-ray machines in five incidents. Those involved would receive payments of as much as $2,400, reported Reuters.
These arrests mark one of the first times in which employees from the Transportation Security Administration were caught allegedly colluding with drug dealers.
The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation's security needs, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement, reported Reuters.
Last February, Duane Eleby was prepared to sneak 10 pounds of cocaine through a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport with the help of corrupt TSA agents. However, he went through the wrong terminal and was arrested after the cocaine was discovered. His arrest set off a series of undercover operations that would lead to the arrests of the TSA agents, reported the Daily Mail.
The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation's security needs,' said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. in a statement.
In all, seven individuals were arrested in connection to the scheme, including Eleby. Naral Richardson, 30, was fired from the TSA for an unrelated incident in 2010. However, he is accused of orchestrating the scheme. He recruited John Whitfield, 23, of Los Angeles, a current TSA screener, Joy White, 27, of Compton, who was fired last year, and Capeline McKinney, 25, of Los Angeles, was also a current employee.
The Drug Enforcement Agency recruited undercover informants to conduct operations. They passed cocaine and methamphetamine through security checkpoints without inspection from the accused TSA officers.
In one incident, nearly 8 pounds of methamphetamine went through a checkpoint. Whitfield and an informant then met in an airport bathroom where Whitfield was paid $600 for looking the other way, reported the Daily Mail. In another situation, McKinney let over 44 pounds of cocaine pass through her checkpoint, authorities said.
The government takes this conduct very seriously, said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Herzog, according to Fox. In this case, it was narcotics. We want to make sure that in the next case it's not some other kind of contraband.
Herzog said the screeners spoke with the drug smugglers through text messages so the couriers would know what lane to walk through.
The real question is how many do they not know about, said Phillip Little with West Coast Detectives, reported Fox. We have known for years that terrorist groups have tested systems at the airports in this country to see if they can use these same channels that the drug channels use.