An indictment unsealed today accuses two current and two ex-security screeners at Los Angeles International Airport with taking cash payments to allow large shipments of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine to pass through X-ray machines at airport security checkpoints.
The federal indictment also includes charges against three alleged drug
In addition to the current and former Transportation Security Administration officials, one alleged drug courier is currently in state custody, and another suspected drug courier is expected to surrender Thursday.
Authorities are searching for another alleged drug courier named in the 22-count grand jury indictment, prosecutors said.
The indictment outlines five specific incidents in which current and former TSA employees allegedly took payments of as much as $2,400 to allow suitcases filled with drugs to pass through X-ray machines at LAX while federal screeners looked the other way.
"Airport screeners act as a vital checkpoint for homeland security, and air travelers should believe in the fundamental integrity of security systems at our nation's airports,'" said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. "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.''
The indictment names:
-- Naral Richardson, 30, of Los Angeles, who was arrested this morning. Richardson, who was fired by the TSA in 2010, is accused of orchestrating the five incidents in which TSA screeners allegedly agreed to waive narcotics through security checkpoints;
-- John Whitfield, 23, of Los Angeles, who was arrested Tuesday night. Whitfield, a TSA screener who allegedly worked with Richardson to allow nearly four kilograms of meth to pass through LAX security, is also accused of personally allowing more than 20 kilograms of cocaine to pass through LAX security;
-- Joy White, 27, of Compton, who was arrested this morning. White, whose employment was terminated by the TSA last year, was stationed at LAX screening checkpoints when she allegedly allowed drugs to pass through,
including a shipment of more than 20 kilograms of cocaine;
-- Capeline McKinney, 25, of Los Angeles, who was arrested this morning. The TSA screener allegedly allowed more than 20 kilograms of cocaine to pass through her security checkpoint;
-- Duane Eleby, 28, of Downey, who is expected to surrender to authorities Thursday. Eleby allegedly attempted to bring nearly five kilograms of cocaine through a security checkpoint, but the narcotics were seized by law enforcement when he went through the wrong security checkpoint;
-- Terry Cunningham, 28, of Los Angeles, an alleged drug courier currently being sought by authorities; and
-- Stephen Bayliss, 28, of Los Angeles, an alleged drug courier who's currently in state custody.
All of the defendants who were arrested Tuesday and today were expected
to be arraigned on the indictment later today in Los Angeles federal court.
If convicted of all charges in the indictment, the current and former TSA officials each face potential multiple-year prison sentences up to life behind bars, prosecutors said.