A former LAX baggage handler faces a possible prison sentence Friday for his role in a scheme to smuggle cocaine past security as part of a nationwide drug ring.
Antonio H. Botello, 25, was the last of three ex-baggage handlers in the case to plead guilty to participating in the plan to help drug couriers smuggle cocaine through Los Angeles International Airport aboard commercial flights for delivery to customers on the East Coast.
Botello was arrested in February 2017 on suspicion of smuggling cocaine by authorities investigating the use of employee credentials to breach airport security.
After accepting his plea in March 2018 to a federal conspiracy charge, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. described Botello as “a very young man who got in way too deep.”
Botello, Adrian Ponce, 30, and Alberto Preciado Gutierrez, 29 — all from South Gate — were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and to distribute cocaine.
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 year and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.
Gutierrez also pleaded guilty before Birotte in downtown Los Angeles and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19.
Prosecutors are asking that the judge sentence Botello to about three years behind bars, while the defense recommends a “minimal” prison term.
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