The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

LAX's Lax Security - TSA Smuggling Ring

Normally the Transportation Security Administration, or Trained Shoe Analysts, are faulted for going overboard with their searches. A repeat of all of their gaffes would make this an infinitely long post, but let’s suffice it to say that they often take things a little too far with children and the elderly.

This time though, they allegedly didn’t look close enough, reports the Los Angeles Times. Four TSA agents, two of which were still with the agency, were arrested in Los Angeles Thursday for allegedly taking bribes to pass drug smugglers through the Los Angeles International Airport security lines. John Whitfield, Joy White and Caperline McKinney were allegedly led by Naral Richardson, who devised the plan.

Smugglers would call the agents on provided cell phones. The agents would direct the smuggler to their security line and then X-ray their bags. The smuggler would claim that they had a pacemaker, which ensures a pat down. This also apparently prevents you from having your bag randomly screened. They would then meet in the bathroom, where the smuggler would hand over hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.

The event that may have prompted the investigation was when a smuggler, Duane Eleby, went through the wrong line and was discovered. He was released shortly thereafter and two weeks later, undercover agents started catching the smugglers via a planned sting operation.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the four TSA agents have been charged with a multitude of crimes, including offering and receiving bribes, conspiracy, and drug possession. They face a minimum of ten years and a maximum of a life sentence.

Conviction for a charge of conspiracy requires that the prosecutor prove that there was an agreement amongst two or more people to commit some illegal act and that there was some action taken in furtherance of that crime.

For the four TSA agents, the agreement to assist in smuggling would suffice for the first part. This can be proven easily, through the testimony of a snitch on a favorable plea bargain, or through the testimony of the undercover agents.

For the second part, the act in furtherance element, any significant action would suffice. Even something as dumb as purchasing the prepaid phones would qualify, though it sounds as if they have a lot more dirt than that on each of the agents.

LAX's lax security has riders and agents on edge. For those of you with actual pacemakers or other conditions requiring a pat down, expect to be tickled even more in the immediate future.

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