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Ex-TSA Screener Gets 70 Months in Prison for Drug Conspiracy

Conspiracy
A TSA agent was sentenced to 70 months in prison on May 5 for taking bribes to pass cocaine through security. (Thinkstock)

A former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer was sentenced on May 5 to nearly six years in federal prison for taking bribes to let kilograms of cocaine to pass through her screening station at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Joy White, 29, of Compton pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to aid in the possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute the drug.

She was among seven people – including two former and two then-current TSA screeners – indicted in April 2012 in the scheme to smuggle drugs through airport X-ray checkpoints and onto airplanes bound for North Carolina and elsewhere.

In issuing the 70-month prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow said White’s role was “at the heart of the offense,” making her culpability “more serious than others in the case.”

Defense attorney Joel Thvedt argued for a three-year term, telling the judge that his client suffered from postpartum depression and “desperate” financial hardship at the time of the crimes.

White, a mother of two, sobbed as she asked Morrow for “leniency,” adding that her participation in the scheme “was very stupid.”

The judge was not swayed.

“She abused her position of trust as a TSA screener,” Morrow said. “She had no limits on the amount or type of drugs or how often.”

The indictment outlined five specific incidents in which then-current and former TSA employees took payments of as much as $2,400 to allow suitcases filled with drugs to pass through X-ray machines while screeners looked the other way.

Three other defendants have been sentenced to prison terms between 18 and 90 months, and three are awaiting sentencing.

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