Pair agree to plead guilty in TSA bribery scam
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two suspected drug couriers have agreed to plead guilty in a case that involved former Transportation Security Administration screeners who were bribed to smuggle marijuana onto planes leaving Los Angeles International Airport, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Charles Hicks, 24, of Culver City, and Andrew Welter, 25, of Fontana, have agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court. They each face up to five years in prison.
The two men worked with Millage Peaks, the son of a former Los Angeles fire chief, who would pay up to $500 for each piece of luggage carrying marijuana that made it through security screening, court documents said.
The two TSA employees named in court filings, Dianna Perez and Randy Littlefield, as well as Peaks, do not face charges. Perez and Littlefield no longer work for the federal agency.
Between November 2010 and October 2011, Perez helped the drug couriers circumvent airport security nine times through various methods, including giving the smugglers instructions about how to pack marijuana so alarms on TSA's explosive detection system wouldn't be triggered.
Perez and Peaks were arrested in October following the discovery of two pieces of luggage carrying 15 bags of marijuana worth $38,000 on a Boston-bound flight from Los Angeles.
The screeners faced charges that were later dismissed without prejudice, which allows federal prosecutors the ability to refile charges. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said there was an ongoing investigation and couldn't comment further.
In April, federal prosecutors also charged four former TSA employees in another bribery scheme to sneak large amounts of cocaine through airport checkpoints.
TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said the agency takes these incidents seriously and takes appropriate disciplinary actions.