Three security screeners at SFO have been indicted on fraud and drug smuggling charges, the Justice Department said on Friday. The three were employees of Covenant Aviation Security, a private company that's contracted with the Transportation Security Administration to provide additional security at the San Francisco airport.
The federal indictment, which was unsealed on Thursday, revealed that the three had arranged for passengers they knew were carrying cocaine in their carry-ons to pass through designated x-ray machines, and purposely allowed them through security in exchange for money.
According to court documents, one of the accused screeners would meet up with the smugglers at the airport, so they could identify whom they'd allow to pass through security. The smugglers would then be directed to the lines where the other defendants were working x-ray machines and monitoring passengers, and would be let through, no questions asked, reports KTVU. Undercover Drug Enforcement and TSA agents discovered that these transactions happened on five separate occasions between May 2013 and April 2014.
Joseph Scott of Vallejo, Michael Castaneda of Daly City, and Jessica Scott of San Pablo are all charged with two counts: the first is conspiring to defraud the TSA by obstructing a lawful government function, which, if convicted, could carry a sentence of five years in prison, plus a maximum fine of $250,000. The second count—conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine— could get the defendants a mandatory minimum of ten years, with a maximum sentence of life in prison, on top of a maximum fine of $10 million.
This bust follows on the March indictment of two TSA screeners at SFO who are accused of conspiring with a third individual in similar meth smuggling operation. Their scheme was surveilled in part through messages exchanged over Facebook.