Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
TSA officers caught in drug smuggling scheme
Three Transportation Security Administration agents who were allegedly part of a narcotics smuggling ring were arrested by a Drug Enforcement Agency task force.
Allegedly the TSA agents accepted cash payments and gift cards in exchange for looking the other way when shipments of thousands of oxycodone pills came through security checkpoints at Palm Beach International Airport and Westchester County Airport.
The DEA’s New England Division said on Sept. 13 that it had arrested the three agents, a New York City Police officer, a Florida State Trooper and over a dozen more people in a wide-ranging investigation of prescription pain medication abuse in the New England region. The investigation was dubbed “Operation Blue Coast” and was headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, according to the DEA.
Court records show Christopher Allen, 45, a TSA officer based at the Palm Beach International Airport allegedly accepted cash payments in exchange for facilitating the transportation of oxycodone through airport security without detection.
John Best, also known as “JB,” 30, another TSA agent at Palm Beach International Airport, allegedly accepted cash payments and a gift card in exchange for facilitating the transportation of oxycodone through airport security without detection.
Brigitte Jones, 48, a TSA officer based at Westchester County Airport allegedly accepted cash payments and a gift card in exchange for facilitating the transportation of oxycodone and narcotics trafficking proceeds through airport security without detection.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Steve Derr of the New England Field Division and other law enforcement officials said the three were among 20 individuals who were arrested on charges related to their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to distribute the potent, addictive prescription narcotic.
“This investigation not only uncovered the trafficking of diverted pain medications but also exposed the alleged corrupt activities of two law enforcement officers and employees of the Transportation Safety Administration,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Derr. “Prescription pain medication abuse is rampant in New England and this trafficking group allegedly preyed upon the addictions of individuals to line their pockets, while the law enforcement officers are alleged to have sold their badges and abused their authority to further the illegal activities of the organization.”
“Government employees take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect the people and programs they're entrusted to oversee,” stated DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) Special Agent in Charge Gregory Null. “The majority of our employees are honest, dedicated and hard-working individuals. Those employees who choose to violate the law will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”
“First, we allege that, in less than one year, this conspiracy was responsible for the illegal transportation and distribution of tens of thousands of highly-addictive prescription narcotic pills from Florida to users in Connecticut,” said David Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. “ Second, we have identified and arrested three officers of the Transportation Security Administration and two law enforcement officers, who we allege accepted cash payments in exchange for permitting the illegal drugs and the cash proceeds of the illegal drug trafficking to travel safely, undeterred by airport security or law enforcement,” he said. “In these times, no one needs to be reminded about how dangerous it is when officers who have sworn to uphold the law accept money to ‘look the other way.’ The Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners have zero-tolerance for corrupt law enforcement officers and corrupt federal employees, and anyone who violates his or her oath and breaks the law will soon find him or herself in a federal courtroom, before a federal judge, answering to federal charges.”