Former TSA Officer Indicted for Allegedly Allowing Marijuana-Laden Baggage to Pass Through Security Screening at LAX
LOS ANGELES—A former officer with the Transportation Security Administration was indicted today by a federal grand jury on narcotics and bribery charges for allegedly accepting payment to allow checked bags filled with marijuana to be cleared through screening checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport.
Deondre Smith, 33, of South Los Angeles, was named in a two-count indictment that charges him with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and bribery of a public official.
The indictment alleges that Smith accepted payments of at least $500 to ensure that baggage containing marijuana would be allowed to pass through security checkpoints at LAX so that the bags would be loaded on to commercial aircraft. “Knowing that the luggage contained marijuana, defendant Smith would temporarily take possession of the luggage from other co-conspirators and either personally escort the luggage through LAX baggage screening checkpoints, or deliver the luggage to make sure the baggage containing marijuana passed security,” according to the indictment.
“I expect all federal employees to meet the highest standards of ethical behavior,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Any acceptance of bribes to influence official conduct will not be tolerated. It is particularly serious when the employee knowingly assisted the commission of a serious criminal offense.”
The bags containing marijuana were transported to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, where the drugs were distributed, according to the indictment, which alleges nine specific incidents in 2009 and 2010 where Smith allowed drug-filled bags to pass through security.
Other members of the conspiracy have been convicted of federal drug trafficking charges in North Carolina.
The indictment alleges that the conspiracy in which Smith participated moved at least 50 kilograms of marijuana.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If convicted, Smith would face a statutory maximum penalty of five years for the drug trafficking conspiracy. The bribery count carries a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Smith will be summonsed to appear for an arraigned in United States District Court in the coming weeks.
This case is the result of an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.