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Earlier today, four current and former TSA screeners were arrested for allegedly taking part in a massive drug-trafficking ring at Los Angeles International Airport.  The screeners are accused of taking bribes in return for allowing massive amounts of cocaine, meth and pot to pass through LAX.

The TSA screeners, who were arrested Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, allegedly received up to $2,400 in cash bribes in exchange for allowing large drug shipments to pass through checkpoints in what the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles called a “significant breakdown” of security.

In addition to the two current and two former screeners, prosecutors also indicted two alleged drug couriers and a third who allegedly tried to smuggle 11 pounds of cocaine but was nabbed when he went through the wrong security checkpoint.

The TSA employees “placed greed above the nation’s security needs,” Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, said in a statement.

According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office, one of the couriers has already been arrested by the LAPD pending transfer to federal custody, a second is expected to surrender tomorrow and a third is still at large.

The indictment alleges that former TSA screener Naral Richardson conspired with three of his former colleagues--John Whitfield, Joy White and Capeline McKinney--to smuggle drugs through LAX on five occasions from February to July 2011.  Apparently the scheme was unmasked when one of the couriers went to the wrong checkpoint and was caught with a bag full of cocaine.  Richardson and Whitfield then paid a supposed courier $1,200 to let five pounds of meth through unscreened--but the smuggler was really a DEA undercover agent.

The four screeners all face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of life.  One of the couriers faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 40, while the other two face five years in prison.  

Federal officials, needless to say, are up in arms over this.

Briane Grey, acting special agent in charge of the DEA in Los Angeles, said the scheme was particularly reprehensible because it took place at LAX.

“The defendants traded on their positions at one the world’s most crucial airport security checkpoints, used their special access for criminal ends, and compromised the safety and security of their fellow citizens for their own profit,” he said in a statement.

Considering the circumstances, I wouldn't be too surprised if prosecutors used the threat of a RICO indictment to force those involved to cooperate.
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