The arrest of 14 individuals charged with circumventing airport security to operate a nationwide drug trafficking organization has brought safety at America’s airports into serious question.
Three of the at least 11 Bay Area co-conspirators used their security clearance as bag handlers at the Oakland International Airport to circumvent normal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening procedures while carrying bags filled with marijuana, according to Monday’s partially unsealed criminal complaint. The bag handlers would then use security badges to enter the post-TSA screened passenger area and pass the bags off to coordinated outbound passengers.
The smuggling ring has been operating since as early as July 2012. Those involved include airline-employed baggage handlers, transporting travelers, recipients, and those managing proceeds in bank accounts.
Nine defendants were arrested and have made initial appearances in court. Eight appeared before an Oakland judge on Monday. The ninth was seen in Arkansas and released on bond. Two more are already serving state prison sentences in Arkansas and Louisiana. Three more, Brandon Jarred Davillier, 27, of Slidell, Louisiana, Ahshatae Marie Millhouse, 27, of Oakland, California, and Francisco Manuel Carrasco, 29, of Hayward, California are currently fugitives.
Photos of cash bundles and marijuana were posted to at least one smuggler’s Instagram account according to the Contra Costa Times.
Multiple arrests and seizures in relation to the conspiracy have been made in airports across the country since May 2013, the Times detailed.
The mnimum mandatory sentence for conspiracy and intent to distribute marijuana should defendants be convicted is five years in prison. Maximum penalties for these offenses are 40 years in prison and $5 million.
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