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Former customs agent sentenced

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

A former federal customs officer was sentenced to eight years for conspiring to launder drug money and trying to smuggle guns onto a plane, abusing his authority to get past airport security.

Devon Samuels, 45, of Stockbridge, was sentenced to federal prison on Thursday.

In a separate case, Samuels and his wife, Keisha Jones, 30, were sentenced for their roles in perpetrating a sham marriage for a Decatur couple.

Samuels was working for U.S. Customs in November 2010 when he took $25,000 in alleged drug money from an undercover officer. Using his badge to bypass security and avoid screening, Samuels smuggled the money through Atlanta's airport into Jamaica, said federal prosecutors.

In Jamaica, Samuels delivered the money to an undercover officer there, posing as an international drug trafficker. About two weeks later, Samuels accepted more than $50,000 in purported drug money from another undercover officer and made a repeat trip to Jamaica.

Rounding out the month, Samuels took five firearms and $20,000 in alleged drug money from an undercover officer and smuggled them into the airport by using his badge to bypass security. Inside the airport, Samuels handed off the guns and money to a second undercover officer who told Samuels she was taking it all to Arizona for a meeting with a Mexican drug cartel.

Samuels was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the marriage sham scheme. Keisha Jones was sentenced to six months home confinement and was ordered to perform 150 hours of community service. Prosecutors allege Samuels used his knowledge of immigration policies to assist Carolton Ferguson, 35, and Dahlia McLaren, 30, to deceive U.S. Immigration authorities into believing the latter couple's marriage was genuine. Samuels and Jones were paid to falsely complete immigration paperwork so McLaren could get her U.S. citizenship. All four have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.

"Mr. Samuels abused his position as a federal customs officer to smuggle guns and drug money through the world's busiest airport for people he thought were international narcotics traffickers," said U. S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "This significant prison sentence should serve as a stinging reminder that corruption that compromises the safety and security of our borders and our transportation system will not be tolerated."