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Three airport workers charged with smuggling drugs

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Two airport security agents and a Delta Airlines employee sat sullenly at the table on the 18th floor of the federal court building, listening to the details of bond agreements.

Leslie Adgar, a 42-year-old Delta employee, gave her passport to her attorney. He walked across the room and gave it to the federal prosecutors, slapping it on the wood table and leaning in to ask if that, along with ten percent of a $20,000 bond, would mean Adgar didn't have to spend Tuesday night in jail.

Andre Mays, a 24-year-old Transportation Security Administration officer, had his father sign an agreement saying the United States government could take his house, if he fled prosecution. Jon Patton, a 44-year-old TSA officer, signed a similar agreement and his wife and mother-in-law had to sign it, too. The judge pointed out that Patton has no equity in his new home and the 44-year-old, a diabetic, rolled up his shirt sleeve and gave himself a shot of insulin.

The three were indicted on Tuesday by a United States grand jury on charges they smuggled heroin and cocaine through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and onto flights destined for New York.

Patton, Mays and Adgar allegedly accepted $25,500 to smuggle the drugs, not knowing their client was an informant and they were being followed by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

"Their greed led to their demise," said Rodney G. Benson, special agent in charge of the Atlanta DEA. "These defendants betrayed the trust of the American public by breaching the ever-important role of front-line airport security."

According to an affidavit sworn out by DEA Agent John J. Rapp, the drug enforcement agency learned of the smuggling in November 2007. The DEA convinced the informer to set up a deal, and agents followed as the informer delivered a suitcase filled with $4,000 and two kilograms of fake cocaine. The confidential source, a New Yorker working with county prosecutors in Brooklyn and whose identity is being protected by the DEA, gave the carry-on bag to Patton and Mays at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, while both of the men were on duty and wearing their TSA uniforms. The men used the bathroom in the north terminal, according to Rapp, walked around the metal detectors, ran the bag through the X-ray machine, and delivered it to Adgar and another Delta employee at gate T-8.

Adgar and the man, whom she allegedly described as her "partner in crime" and "best friend," boarded a flight to New York's LaGuardia Airport. The informant and two DEA agents also boarded the plane. At LaGuardia, Adgar and the other man met the informer in a Starbucks, handed over the bag and received another $4,000.

Rapp alleges this happened again in January, with a kilogram of fake heroin smuggled through TSA security and onto the airplane for $9,000.

At the same time, the DEA began tapping Patton's cell phone. Patton allegedly used the phone to talk to the informer and Adgar about details of the drug smuggling operation.

On Feb. 15, Patton and Adgar allegedly moved another three kilograms of fake cocaine through Hartsfield, expecting to receive $8,500. Instead, the two were arrested in the airport. Both reportedly confessed to the smuggling, and Mays was arrested and confessed he received $300 for his part, but claimed he didn't know the package contained drugs.

With the indictment Tuesday, United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said the three had abused their positions.

"This indictment should serve as a cautionary tale for others who would betray the trust that the public places in the front-line workers at our nation's airports: Such illegal conduct will be discovered and the offenders swiftly brought to justice," Nahmias said.

TSA officials said they cooperated with the investigation and have "zero tolerance" for criminal activity.

Patton and Adgar have been charged with possession of illegal narcotics with the intent to distribute and Mays has been charged with drug conspiracy and attempt to distribute. All three face the maximum possible sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $4 million.