Southern California breaking news and trends

Baggage: Drug couriers to plead guilty in TSA bribery case

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Brian Watt/KPCC

TSA baggage X-ray at LAX.

For their part in a bribery scheme invoiving TSA agents at Los Angeles International Airport, two suspected drug couriers, Charles Hicks and Andrew Welter, have agreed to plead guilty to one count each of conspiracy, the U.S. attorney's office said Tuesday. Each man faces a maximum of five years in prison.

Not to be confused with the four TSA screeners charged in April with taking bribes and allowing massive amounts of cocaine to blow through security at LAX, this pair of defendants belongs to a different case where marijuana was smuggled onto planes leaving Los Angeles.

The men paid up to $500 -- via an intermediary -- for each piece of drug-filled luggage that made it through security, court documents showed. The suspected TSA employees named in those documents have not been charged.

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Four TSA screeners charged with taking bribes, passing drugs through LAX checkpoints

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Brian Watt/KPCC

TSA baggage X-ray at LAX.

Souvenir snow globes will cause tsuris for the TSA, but mass quantities of cocaine have been blowing through LAX checkpoints without as much as a sneeze, it was revealed on Wednesday.

Two current and two former TSA screeners at Los Angeles International Airport have been arrested and indicted on drug conspiracy charges following a trafficking probe. 

In all, seven people face drug-related charges in a 22-count grand jury indictment that was unsealed today in a Los Angeles federal court.

The TSA agents allegedly allowed and arranged for large amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and other drugs to pass easily through security screenings last year. Other charges include paying and receiving bribes by a government official.

According to the indictment there were five coordinated incidents where TSA screeners conspired to let suitcases of drugs slip through X-ray machines undetected via drug couriers or an undercover operative working with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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TSA 'PreCheck' program arrives at LAX with speedy security options

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Getty Images

LAX

A new, passenger pre-screening program will have travelers flying through TSA security ASAP at LAX.

The Transportation Security Administration "PreCheck" pilot program touches down at Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 18, offering pre-approved fliers an expedited security experience. 

At check-in, PreCheck enrolled passengers will not have to go shoeless and beltless, they can leave liquids and laptops inside carry-on luggage, as they mosey a reserved fast path through the security area.

Expedited screening does not guarantee immunity from standard security restrictions, however. Random searches and unexpected measures are still a possibility.

As part of the program's application process, individuals are required to release personal information, submit to fingerprinting and background checks, and participate in a face-to-face interview. 

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