Three Transportation Security Administration officers have been charged with accepting bribes to let couriers smuggle painkillers and cash...
STAMFORD, Conn. — Three Transportation Security Administration officers have been charged with accepting bribes to let couriers smuggle painkillers and cash undetected through security checkpoints at airports in New York and Florida, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
The officers, one stationed at Westchester County Airport in New York and two others at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., were responsible for screening passengers and carry-on bags for commercial-airline flights between the two airports.
The officers — Brigitte Jones, 48, of New York; Christopher Allen, 45, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; and John Best, 30, of Port St. Lucie, Fla. — were each charged with conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone.
Jones’ attorney, William Bloss, said that he anticipated a not-guilty plea, but that he had not yet been able to review the evidence in the case.
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The federal officers were among 20 people who were arrested, most on Monday and Tuesday, after a five-month investigation. Prosecutors say couriers carried thousands of pain pills from Florida to Connecticut, where they were sold for a higher price, and then returned to Florida with large amounts of cash.
Two other law-enforcement officers — Michael T. Brady, 36, a Westchester County police officer; and Justin Kolves, 28, a Florida state trooper — were also arrested in the sting and charged with the same offenses as the TSA officers.
Prosecutors say that between November and April, the security officers allowed drug couriers to carry the strong prescription narcotic oxycodone and large amounts of cash onto dozens of commercial-airline flights between Westchester County and West Palm Beach, and that the officers accepted cash and gift cards as bribes.
The officers were paid about $500 each time they let someone through the checkpoint for a flight, prosecutors said. On each trip, the drug couriers carried 6,000 to 8,000 pills.
On one occasion, a witness wearing a police wire sought advice from Jones about how best to smuggle a handgun through security and coordinated with her to make sure Jones could guide him through the screening checkpoint at the Westchester airport, in Harrison, N.Y., according to a prosecutor’s affidavit used to obtain arrest warrants.
Prosecutors said that Brady, a Westchester County police officer stationed at the airport in Harrison, accepted bribes totaling $20,000 in the case.