Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced criminal charges against four security screeners who worked at Los Angeles International Airport and were allegedly paid thousands of dollars in bribes to look the other way while drug shipments slipped through security checkpoints.
Two of the screeners were fired by the Transportation Security Administration during the past two years, but two others were still on the government payroll up to their arrest. All four were arrested within the past day, according to prosecutors.
The screeners were indicted on Sunday along with three alleged drug runners, who prosecutors said brought cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana through the checkpoints at LAX.
US Attorney in Los Angeles Andre Birotte Jr. announced the indictment along with officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration and a variety of state and local law enforcement.
The prosecutor said the screeners were paid bribes in the range of $1,200 to $2,400 on five separate incidents from February to July 2011. In one incident detailed on Wednesday, the screener was paid $600 to arrange for a shipment of methamphetamine to pass through the checkpoint and another $600 after the drugs made it through successfully.
Prosecutors said screener Naral Richardson coordinated the efforts. He was fired from TSA in 2010. One of his colleagues who allegedly waived some of the drugs through, Joy White, was fired last year. Meanwhile, screeners John Whitfield and Capeline McKinney apparently still worked for TSA. It was unclear whether any of them had attorneys yet.
The screeners and alleged drug runners were all ages 23 to 30.
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Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com