He just wanted to make sure the drugs got through.
That’s part of the case against a security screener named John Whitfield, 23, one of four US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents arrested by a police in a major bust. Charges include drug trafficking and bribery.
Whitfield allegedly told the drug courier with the backpack full narcotics to go to the back of the queue so the courier and his luggage would reach the X-ray machines after Whitfield’s shift started. That way, in exchange for USD1200, Whitfield would allow it through, according to the charges, related in the Los Angeles Times.
Whitfield is one of four current and former TSA screeners in custody, accused of receiving thousands of dollars in cash bribes for turning a blind eye to drugs packed in suitcases.
The four are implicated in at least five incidents from in 2011 in which on-duty screeners are alleged to have taken payments of up to USD2400 to allow suitcases filled with drugs to pass unimpeded through X-ray machines at LAX, US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr’s office charged in a statement.
Birotte’s office said the scheme came unstuck after a member of the alleged conspiracy accidentally went through the wrong security line. He was immediately busted by TSA screeners who were not in on the plot. There’s more to it than that, according to Birotte. A TSA screener unknowingly arranged with an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration to receive USD1200 to let a shipment of methamphetamine pass through security.
The penalty, if convicted, is severe. Each of the TSA screeners could face life in prison. The drug ring is also said to have involved several known drug runners. Apart from methamphetamine (also known as ice, speed or crystal meth) cocaine and marijuana are alleged to have been smuggled on previous runs.
“Airport screeners act as a vital checkpoint for homeland security, and air travellers should believe in the fundamental integrity of security systems at our nation’s airports,” Birotte said. “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.”
Written by : Peter Needham