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TSA Agents Accused Of Taking Drug Money To Look The Other Way

The expedited security line at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.
David Goldman
The expedited security line at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Easy, isn't it? Get a note from the TSA officer who screens you at the airport so you know which lane to pick for your security check. Then stroll through with your suitcase jammed with kilos of cocaine. Your screener won't utter a peep, even if it's marijuana or methamphetamines instead. In exchange, pay your screener hundreds of dollars in a bribe.

That's what the Justice Department alleges happened at Los Angeles International Airport last year. And it worked, until one of the alleged couriers got in the wrong line and the "wrong" TSA agents seized his bag.

Tipped off, police set up a sting; using a "confidential source", they sent several pounds of methamphetamines through a suspect screener's line. Afterwards, the screener allegedly met the source in an LAX bathroom to receive $600 in cash, the second half of a $1,200 payment.

Agents allege there were five incidents between February and July, 2011. KPCC blogger Lisa Brenner has details on the seven people charged in the case. Four are current or former TSA screeners and the remaining three are alleged drug couriers.

U.S. Attorney André Birotte, Jr. released a statement, saying "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."

Randy Parsons, the head of TSA services at Los Angeles International Airport, says his officers are doing all they can to help in the investigation. "While these arrests are a disappointment, TSA is committed to holding our employees to the highest standards."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Korva Coleman is a newscaster for NPR.

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