Federal officials announced that multiple airport screeners were arrested for allegedly accepting considerable bribes to simply “look the other way” while illicit drugs passed through security at Los Angeles International Airport, according to an ABC News report.
Two former and current TSA employees of Los Angeles International Airport were arrested after Duane Eleby, an alleged drug courier, fumbled a plan to smuggle 10 pounds of cocaine through a bribed security checkpoint by going to the wrong terminal and getting caught by a different TSA screener, who had not been bribed. The failed plan ultimately resulted in the two former and current TSA employees indictment on bribery and federal drug trafficking charges.
After Eleby was arrested by a TSA screener who found the 10 pounds of cocaine, authorities launched a series of undercover operations which eventually led to Wednesday’s announcement indicating the arrest of a former Transportation Administration employee and a screener.
TSA employees allegedly accepted payments of up to $2,400 to provide drug couriers safe passage through LAX security, according to a 22-count indictment which outlined five incidents in which TSA employees accepted payments for looking the other way. In regards to the incident, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. stated:
“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.”
Naral Richardson, a 30-year-old who resides in L.A., allegedly orchestrated the scheme while current TSA screeners John Whitfield (23), Capeline McKinney (25), and former TSA screener Joy White, a 27-year old who resides in Compton, aided in the execution of the plan. All of the previously aforementioned individuals have been arrested and charged.
According to the indictment, Eleby was given specific instructions by White to ensure his safe passage through the airport. White indicated that Eleby should pass through Terminal 6, where White was located, and Eleby mistakenly went to Terminal 5 where his flight was scheduled to depart from.
Had the plan worked out for the smugglers and Eleby passed through security undetected with White’s assistance, Eleby was then supposed to pass through a secure tunnel which connects the two terminals.
Even after Eleby’s arrest, the smuggling continued and federal agents initiated a sting operation in which informants passed drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine, through security checkpoints with any additional inspection after which point.
Court documents indicate that Whitfield was paid $600 for allowing 8 pounds of methamphetamine to pass through an X-ray machine. The operative met Whitfield in an airport bathroom to render payment for his efforts.
McKinney allowed 44 pounds of cocaine to pass through her security checkpoint, according to authorities.
Authorities also stated that none of the drugs ever reached their final destination (unlike the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious in which the agency lost track of the weapons as they made it to their intended destinations in the hands of violent drug cartels.
Since Transportation Security Administration was created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, employees of the agency have been arrested for their involvement in drug trafficking operations.
Former TSA officer Jonathan Best pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone for his involved in a painkiller trafficking ring. A former New York police officer and a former Florida state trooper have also plead guilty.
Do you think that the TSA arrests we’ve witnessed thus far are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to TSA employee involvement in airport drug trafficking?