Cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana were allowed to pass security checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport in a bribery scheme that led to the arrests of two former and two current Transportation Security Administration employees, according to authorities.
Undercover agents posing as couriers made contact with the screeners through social media, said Jose Martinez with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
"They would allow us access into the internal security of the airport, so we could smuggle drugs," Martinez said.
The screeners were accused of allowing large amounts of cocaine and other drugs to pass through X-ray machines at security checkpoints in exchange for payments of up to $2,400, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"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,'' said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr.
The indictment cites five incidents in which the employees allegedly allowed suitcases filled with drugs to pass X-ray machines at security checkpoints.
The scheme occurred over a six-month period last year, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
One drug courier is already in custody in connection with the case, according to authorities. Another courier suspect is expected to surrender Thursday.
One of the courier suspects, identified as Downey resident Duane Eleby, allegedly attempted to bring nearly five kilograms of cocaine through a security checkpoint. The drugs were seized when he went through a checkpoint that was not staffed by someone involved in the scheme, authorities said.
TSA employees who were not involved in the scheme seized Eleby's bag and found the cocaine, according to investigators.
Among those arrested and charged are Naral Richardson, 30, of Los Angeles, who was fired by TSA in 2010 and accused of orchestrating the scheme; John Whitfield, 23, of Los Angeles, a current TSA screener; Joy White, 27, of Compton, who was terminated last year; and Capeline McKinney, 25, of Los Angeles, also a current screener.
"While these arrests are a disappointment, TSA is committed to holding our employees to the highest standards," said Randy Parsons, TSA Federal Security Director at LAX.
If convicted, all four employees face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison.