A former baggage handler at LAX is expected to plead guilty Friday to a federal conspiracy charge stemming from a scheme to smuggle cocaine past security as part of a nationwide drug ring.
Antonio H. Botello, 24, is the last of three ex-baggage handlers in the case to plead guilty to participating in a scheme to help drug couriers smuggle cocaine through Los Angeles International Airport aboard commercial flights for delivery to customers on the East Coast.
Botello, Adrian Ponce, 29, and Alberto Preciado Gutierrez, 28 — all from South Gate — were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and to distribute cocaine, a felony carrying a possible prison term of between five and 40 years.
The case stems from the seizure of more than two pounds 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 was waiting for Gutierrez in a vehicle outside the terminal, was interviewed the next day and admitted that the pair took part in similar transactions on multiple occasions, according to federal prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge last month.
Gutierrez pleaded guilty Monday before U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. in downtown Los Angeles.
Botello was arrested in February 2017 on suspicion of smuggling cocaine by authorities investigating the use of employee credentials to breach airport security.