A former baggage handler faces a possible prison sentence Friday for using his security credentials to help smuggle cocaine through LAX as part of a drug ring.
Alberto Gutierrez, 29, pleaded guilty last year to participating in the scheme to help drug couriers smuggle cocaine through Los Angeles International Airport aboard commercial flights for delivery to customers on the East Coast. At the time of his arrest three years ago, Gutierrez was a supervisory baggage handler employed by Swissport International at LAX.
Authorities seized 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, according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.
Co-defendant Adrian Ponce, 31, 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 prosecutors. Ponce pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge last year and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.
Antonio Botello, 25, who like the others is from South Gate, was the last of the three ex-baggage handlers in the case to plead guilty. He was sentenced in May by U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. to a week behind bars and supervised release for four years, during which time he will serve 15 months in home confinement.
The judge explained the sentence by saying that Botello was deserving of a “strong, strong benefit of the doubt.”
The single charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and to distribute the drug carries a possible federal prison term of between five and 40 years, but Gutierrez is expected to be sentenced to no more than 6 1/2 years, according to his plea agreement.
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