LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Two former Los Angeles International Airport baggage handlers were arrested Monday on cocaine trafficking charges.
Adrian Ponce, 27, and Alberto Preciado Gutierrez, 26, both of South Gate were arrested by investigators looking into the usage of LAX employee credentials to breach airport security. Both men are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and are expected to make their first court appearances in federal court Monday.
According to an affidavit written by a detective with Los Angeles Airport Police, Ponce and Preciado — who was working as a supervisory baggage handler for Swissport International at the time — facilitated third-party couriers who used commercial airlines to smuggle kilogram “samples” of cocaine from Los Angeles to drug customers on the East Coast.
During the investigation into former baggage handlers, detectives seized a kilogram of cocaine in Preciado’s possession on Dec. 16, 2015 just as he was delivering it to a courier who had a ticket for a JetBlue flight to New York, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The next day, Ponce admitted in a written statement that “on multiple occasions,” he and Preciado used Preciado’s supervisory status as an LAX employee to smuggle drugs to out-of-state drug customers by using third-party couriers, according to the affidavit.
In another statement, Ponce admitted to working with a large-scale drug supplier and supplying couriers who had already passed through normal airport security. According to the affidavit, Ponce said if East Coast customers liked the cocaine “sample,” then large shipments – more than 100 kilograms – would be delivered by driving the drugs across the country. Federal prosecutors say Ponce also admitted to driving such drug-laden trucks in exchange for payment.
“These defendants are charged with abusing their privileged access on behalf of drug dealers,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This case is yet another example of employees associated with airports assisting drug traffickers.”
Just recently, a JetBlue flight attendant was arrested after allegedly trying to bring nearly 70 pounds of cocaine through LAX security. Marsha Gay Reynolds was arrested in New York and is expected to make her first appearance in court Monday afternoon.