A drug smuggling ring involving Transportation Security Administration personnel and law enforcement officers has been thwarted by federal agents. The smuggling ring moved thousands of oxycodone pills from Florida to New England.
Something rotten in the state of TSA
After a five-month investigation by federal authorities, three TSA agents have been arrested along with two police officers, according to NBC Connecticut, for taking part in a massive drug smuggling ring.
According to the Washington Post, the Drug Enforcement Agency was tipped off in April of a man carrying large amounts of oxycodone. He was arrested on April 8 in Stamford, Conn. and agreed to help the DEA arrest others involved.
Multi-state drug ring involved police
Up to 8,000 oxycodone pills were smuggled per shipment from Florida to New York and into Connecticut. The informant, who isn’t named, made at least 65 trips from Florida to New York. When arrested, he confessed to more than a year of operation, transporting the pills through airports or by car.
TSA agents John Best and Christopher Allen of Palm Beach International airport and Brigitte Jones of the Westchester County airport were paid to ensure pills got through airport security. Justin Kolves, a Florida state trooper, and Michael Brady, a Westchester, N.Y., police officer also took bribes to ensure safe transport. The accused face up to 20 years in prison.
Previous TSA drug trafficking
This isn’t the first time a TSA agent has gotten caught in a drug trafficking plot. According to the Wall Street Journal, a behavioral detection officer for the TSA named Minnetta Walker last month admitted to aiding a drug dealer. She said she routinely helped Derek Frank and his associates get around airport security. Frank would travel with cash, purchase marijuana in Arizona and mail it to Buffalo, N.Y. A fake birth certificate for Frank, complete with fingerprints, was also provided by a former Buffalo city clerk’s office employee.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a TSA agent and two customs officers were sentenced in September of 2010 for a heroin and cocaine smuggling operation. In 2008, two TSA employees and a Delta Airlines employee in Georgia were caught conspiring to smuggle cocaine from Atlanta to New York, according to the Rome News-Tribune.
TSA behaving badly
There have also been cases of thefts by TSA employees. According to The Consumerist, TSA agents at JFK International admitted in February to stealing up to $160,000 in cash, including $39,000 from a single passenger. A TSA supervisor at Newark International was caught allowing an employee to steal money in 2010. The supervisor, Michael Arato, received kickbacks from the $10,000 to $30,000 stolen from passengers, up to $700 per day over a period of several months.
A TSA agent was caught in July stealing a passenger’s iPad and trying to smuggle it out in his pants, according to the Broward-Palm Beach New Times. The agent, Nelson Santiago, stole electronics and sold them online. He allegedly stole an estimated $50,000 of electronics equipment during a six-month period. In 2009, according to Hotair.com, TSA screener Pythias Brown, who also worked at Newark, was caught pulling a similar operation, selling stolen electronics on eBay. He stole and sold up to $400,000 in electronic goods. Nearly 500 TSA agents have been fired or suspended for theft.
NBC Connecticut: http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/TSA-Agents-Cops-Arrested-in-Oxycodone-Bust-129720708.html
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/feds-in-conn-charge-3-tsa-officers-2-cops-and-others-in-scheme-to-distribute-painkiller/2011/09/13/gIQAL2c9PK_story.html
Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/AP63b743780ba74942aad3b5401803fa9e.html
South Florida Sun-Sentinel: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-09-29/news/fl-customs-officials-arrested-20100929_1_customs-agents-undercover-agent-heroin-and-cocaine
The Consumerist: http://consumerist.com/2011/02/tsa-screeners-at-jfk-admit-to-stealing-160k-from-passengers.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
Broward-Palm Beach New Times: http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2011/07/tsa_agent_nelson_santiago_ipad_grand_theft.php
Hot Air: http://hotair.com/archives/2011/06/20/tsa-theft-of-passenger-valuables-a-nationwide-problem/
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