Two LAX baggage handlers were arrested for attempted drug trafficking. Alberto Preciado Gutierrez, 26, and Adrian Ponce, 27, who were both working as baggage handlers at the Los Angeles International Airport, were arrested on Monday morning and charged with conspiracy to transport and distribute cocaine to the East Coast through the airport.
According to the Los Angeles Times, both men used their credentials to manage a cocaine business, fronting for a big time distributor.
Gutierrez's status as a supervisor got him past airport security without question. He admitted he often reported to work with a backpack, which was never searched. According to reports, he used this loophole to pass drug samples to a courier, who would travel to the East Coast to find potential buyers. If the potential buyers liked the samples, Ponce would then transport larger shipments of cocaine to the East Coast by road.
The two men were apprehended following a joint investigation by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and local law enforcement. Authorities confirmed Gutierrez attempted to pass over two pounds of cocaine to a courier bound for New York in a restroom in Terminal 3 of LAX near Gate 34. Officials said Gutierrez was arrested inside the airport and Ponce was arrested in a parking lot outside.
Unfortunately, the LAX baggage handlers are not the only airport employees involved in drug trafficking.
The rate at which airport officials are caught in drug trafficking schemes has raised serious concern. The Transport Security Administration (TSA) said it is almost impossible to screen all airport employees due to the associated costs. Instead, they have advised all airports to step up random screenings and to update all background checks.
The LAX baggage handlers were charged the same day JetBlue flight attendant Marsha Gay Reynolds, 31, appeared in court.
Vibe reports Reynolds gave herself up to federal authorities in New York after fleeing a checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport. She left behind 70 pounds of cocaine. Although the case seems fairly straightforward, Reynolds claims she had no idea of what she carrying.
Two ex-LA airport baggage handlers arrested on drug trafficking charges https://t.co/dNvoGHOQRP #News
— Picked One! (@PickedOne) April 4, 2016
On March 18. Allan Jennings, a spokesman for Reynolds' defense attorney and family, said, "She may not have been fully aware of what was in the bags."
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicia Washington countered that claim, saying it was not the "first time that the defendant had engaged in the conduct."
A judge set Marsha Gay Reynolds bail at $500,000. According to reports, her family used their house to secure the funds. However, the judge warned that they could lose their home if Reynolds skips bail.
Reynolds is a Jamaican-born U.S. citizen and a graduate of New York University. According to reports, she was also a runner-up in the Miss Jamaica World beauty pageant in 2008. Prosecutors say the cocaine found in her luggage had a street value of approximately $3 million.
Airport baggage handlers arrested over major drugs smuggling operation http://t.co/wtzR4KnVTu #ntfm pic.twitter.com/yosX8vpnQ4
— Newstalk (@NewstalkFM) May 19, 2015
Unfortunately, airports remain a popular venue for drug trafficking. As TSA continually updates their screening process, some traffickers have resorted to unusual, and sometimes dangerous, ways to transport drugs.
A 24-year-old Colombian woman was arrested in Germany for carrying over a kilo of cocaine inside her breasts. German airport officials got suspicious after a body search showed that the operation wounds were unusually fresh. Authorities said the woman was also complaining about excruciating pain.
After confessing drugs were surgically inserted into her breasts, she was transported to a local hospital, where doctors extracted two 500-gram rocks of cocaine, which were encased in plastic, from each breast. Authorities said the drugs had a street value of $200,000 and were destined for Spain.
Customs agents were stunned by the substandard surgery, saying it underlined how desperate drug smugglers are to do their business and how little they value the lives of their drug mules. Although it can be incredibly dangerous, hiding drugs inside one's body is not unusual.
As reported by the Daily Mail, another woman was arrested at a Madrid airport for concealing over $120,000 worth of cocaine in her breasts. The Venezuelan woman, 43, used over 1.7 kg of cocaine as implants. She was singled out because she was very nervous, but nothing was found in her belongings. While conducting a subsequent full-body search, customs officials noticed her breasts were irregular, deformed, and had been used to stash drugs.
The LAX baggage handlers did not use their bodies to transport drugs. However, they did use their positions to bypass security. Alberto Preciado Gutierrez and Adrian Ponce are both awaiting trial.
[Image via Cylonphoto/Shutterstock]