A former Transportation Security Administration officer faces trial in January for allegedly accepting bribes to allow checked bags filled with marijuana to be cleared through screening checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport. Deondre Smith, 33, of South Los Angeles, pleaded not guilty on November 19 to charges contained in a two-count indictment alleging conspiracy to distribute marijuana and bribery of a public official, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. U.S. Magistrate Judge Alka Sagar granted Smith’s release on $50,000 bail.
The indictment, filed last month in Los Angeles federal court, alleges that Smith accepted payments of at least $500 to ensure that baggage containing marijuana would be allowed to pass through security checkpoints at LAX so that the bags would be loaded on to commercial aircraft.
“Knowing that the luggage contained marijuana, defendant Smith would temporarily take possession of the luggage from other co-conspirators and either personally escort the luggage through LAX baggage screening checkpoints, or deliver the luggage to make sure the baggage containing marijuana passed security,” the indictment alleges.
The bags containing marijuana were taken to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, where the drugs were distributed, according to the indictment, which alleges nine specific incidents in 2009 and 2010, in which Smith allowed drug-filled bags to pass through security. Other members of the conspiracy have been convicted of federal drug trafficking charges in North Carolina. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy in which Smith participated moved at least 50 kilograms of marijuana.
If convicted, Smith would face a possible maximum penalty of five years behind bars for the drug trafficking conspiracy. The bribery count carries a sentence of up to 15 years in federal prison, prosecutors noted.