TSA agent arrested on charges of accepting bribe

LOS ANGELES - A domestic airline passenger and a TSA employee were arrested Sunday after attempting to smuggle several pounds of marijuana on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston's Logan Airport, FBI officials announced Monday.Millage Peaks, 23, of Los Angeles, and Dianna Perez, 28, of Inglewood, were taken into custody Sunday and held overnight at the Metropolitan Detention Center. According to criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court, Perez, the TSA employee, was charged with accepting a bribe in connection with allowing bags containing a controlled substance to pass unimpeded through airport security. Peaks was charged with bribing a public official. Los Angeles Airport Police responded to a report by a baggage handler with American Airlines who smelled marijuana emanating from one of the bags checked in by Peaks. The bags were removed and searched by TSA personnel. Fourteen plastic bags, containing what airport police blieved amounted to 10-15 pounds of marijuana, were found concealed inside Peaks' bags. After initial interviews and investigation, airport police detained Perez and Peaks, and then contacted FBI agents assigned to LAX. The complaint alleges that Perez agreed to accept a bribe to use her position as a TSA officer to allow Peaks' checked luggage to bypass airport security without being screened by other TSA officers. Perez has been a TSA officer for more than seven years and is responsible for loading luggage onto x-ray machines and searching them. If luggage sets off an alarm for explosives or dangerous items, Perez is certified to clear bags, according to the complaint. Authorities alleged that Peaks planned to travel to Boston to resell the marijuana, which he obtained the previous day in San Francisco for $38,000. Prior to purchasing the marijuana, Peaks had arranged for Perez to help him move bags containing the pot through airport security for a fee, according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint. He intended to pay Perez $500 for each bag she allowed to bypass security, according to the complaint. The complaint further alleges that Peaks told investigators that Perez helped him circumvent security on approximately nine previous occasions. Each time, Peaks would pay Perez about $500 for each bag she moved past security, amounting to approximately $5,000-$6,000. Peaks told agents he met Perez on Sunday morning at the curbside check-in area outside Terminal 4 at LAX, at which time Perez took his bags to a TSA screening room. The complaint alleges that Perez returned a few minutes later and waved at Peaks, indicating that "everything was good." Peaks also told investigators that Perez advised him how to pack the marijuana to avoid detection and told him that she moved drugs through security on other occasions. Perez allegedly admitted to agents that she helped several other people. Perez and Peaks had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Monday and were each freed on $20,000 bond. They are scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 14. Each face 15 years in prison.

********** Published: October 20, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 27