A third former baggage handler at Los Angeles International Airport has been arrested and is facing federal charges of using his employee credentials to breach airport security for the purpose of smuggling cocaine on airplanes, it was announced Thursday.
Alberto H. Botello of South Gate, 23, was arrested late Tuesday without incident by law enforcement officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Botello is charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and to distribute cocaine, along with two co- defendants who are scheduled for trial next month.
Adrian Ponce, 28, and Alberto Gutierrez, 27, both of South Gate, were also baggage handlers when they were arrested last April. According to federal authorities, the trio were involved “in a nationwide conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine.”
Botello, Ponce and Gutierrez allegedly used airport credentials to smuggle cocaine past security and pass it along to third-party couriers who took the drugs aboard commercial flights to deliver to customers on the East Coast.
“The national security threat posed by drug trafficking is multi- faceted, and we’re aggressively targeting these sorts of security breaches at our nation’s sea, land and airports” DEA Special Agent in Charge Steve Comer said.
Prosecutors said authorities seized a kilogram of cocaine from Gutierrez on Dec. 16, 2015, in a Terminal 3 restroom at LAX, where he was trying to pass the drugs to a man planning to fly to New York on a JetBlue flight. Ponce, who allegedly was waiting for Gutierrez in a vehicle outside the terminal, was interviewed the next day and allegedly admitted that the pair took part in similar transactions on multiple occasions.
Gutierrez had been working as a supervisory baggage handler for Swissport International at LAX, but he was fired by the company. Ponce previously worked at LAX for a baggage-handling service that was acquired by Swissport.
If convicted of the charged offenses, Ponce, Gutierrez and Botello each would face sentences between five and 40 years in federal prison, prosecutors
— City News Service
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