LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A former Los Angeles International Airport worker who was arrested while trying to smuggle more than two pounds of heroin wrapped as Christmas gifts onto a jetliner is expected to plead guilty Monday to a federal charge.

James Mitchell, who lives in the Pico-Union district, agreed to enter the plea to a single felony count of possession with intent to distribute at least a kilogram of heroin, according to court papers.

If convicted as charged, Mitchell faces a mandatory sentence of between five and 40 years in federal prison.

The 25-year-old was arrested on Dec. 10, 2016, after trying to smuggle 2.1 pounds of heroin through a security checkpoint at LAX.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mitchell purchased a one-way ticket to Cincinnati and checked a piece of luggage that triggered an alert for “an unknown dense material” during an image scan by the TSA.

An inspection of the bag revealed “six packages of a suspicious gray brittle concrete-like substance,” one of which later tested positive for heroin.

The packages were wrapped in Christmas-themed paper and gave off a “vinegar odor,” which prompted airport police to seek assistance from a hazardous materials unit.

A portion of Terminal 3 was closed while authorities worked to detect and alleviate any potential chemical threat.

Investigators later tracked Mitchell down at his home, obtained an arrest warrant and took him into custody without incident.

Following his arrest, authorities confirmed Mitchell was an employee of Aero Port Services, which provides wheelchair and baggage porter services and aircraft ground servicing at LAX.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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