Duane Eleby, a suspected drug courier, was set up to sneak 10 pounds of cocaine through a security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport last February with the help of a former Transportation Security Administration employee and a screener.
According to Washington Post, the courier went to the wrong terminal and was arrested when another TSA screener found the cocaine. The arrest put a series of undercover operations in motion, which lead to the indictment of former TSA employees on federal drug trafficking and bribery charges.
The 22-count indictment described five incidents where TSA employees took bribes up to $2,400 to give drug couriers access at LAX over a six-month period. Seven people are facing charges, including Duane Eleby. Last February, Eleby was given specific instructions from a TSA employee involved in the scheme. Eleby was supposed to go to Terminal 6 where he would be allowed through security, and instead he went to Terminal 5, where his plane was located. He was busted when the security officer in Terminal 5 found the cocaine. According to the original plan, Eleby would be taken to a secure tunnel linking the two terminals, after he passed through security.
Despite Eleby's arrest, the scheme continued, allowing federal agents to set up a sting in which informants were allowed to pass cocaine and methamphetamine through security checkpoints. In one instance, almost 8 pounds of meth went through an X-ray machine, and the TSA employee received $600. In another incident, 44 pounds of cocaine passed through security.
If convicted, four TSA employees could face a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Image courtesy of Ann Johansson and The Associated Press.