By Daniel Silliman
Two airport security officers, and an airline employee, were sentenced to federal prison for their role in smuggling drugs from Atlanta to New York City.
Leslie Adgar, a 42-year-old Delta Airlines employee, and Jon Patton, a 44-year-old officer with the Transportation Security Administration, were each sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison. Andre Mays, a 24-year-old TSA officer, was sentenced to two years in prison.
"Their greed led to their demise," said Rodney G. Benson, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency's Atlanta office. "[They] betrayed the trust of the American public by breaching the ever-important role of front-line airport security."
The trio pleaded guilty in June to smuggling cocaine and heroin through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The airport employees were accepting sums of up to $25,000 to sneak the drugs onto an airplane, apparently charging $5,000 for the first kilo of cocaine and $3,000 for each additional kilo.
They were working for a New York City drug dealer who purchased his "snow" and "smack" in Atlanta, and needed help moving it north. Their plan fell apart when the drug dealer began cooperating with the Drug Enforcement Agency and a district attorney's office in New York, becoming a "confidential informant."
Undercover DEA agents followed the Atlanta trio three times, as they moved through the steps of their smuggling operation. At the airport, the two TSA officers accepted a carry-on bag, full of money and drugs. They separated the drugs from the money in the bathroom, moved the drugs through the security checkpoint, without running their bags through the X-ray, and then handed the bag to the other Delta employee, who flew to LaGuardia Airport, and took the second half of a payment from the New York man.
The federal agents followed the smuggling system in December 2007, set it up and watched it run again in January, and then arrested the employees at the airport in February.
"Patton and Adgar used their TSA and airline positions to smuggle what they believed to be cocaine and heroin through security at our airport," said David E. Nahmias, United States Attorney. "In return, they each received lengthy prison sentences from the court. These sentences appropriately reflect the seriousness of their conduct, and are a reminder that those who attempt to exploit perceived weaknesses in airport security will face federal prosecution."
Mays, the youngest of the smugglers, was involved in only one of the operations watched by the DEA, and received a substantially shorter sentence. He pleaded guilty to entering a secure airport area in violation of federal screening requirements.
David Holmes, assistant administrator for the TSA Office of Inspection, said the sentences do not reflect the kind of people who work in airport security.
"We hold our officers to the highest standard, and worked aggressively with law enforcement and our federal partners to pursue this case," Holmes said. "These individuals in no way reflect the integrity of the thousands of transportation security officers who work to keep the nation's aviation system secure."