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Former TSA Officer Sentenced to More Than Five Years in Prison for Accepting Bribes from Drug Trafficker

JAN 11 (BRIDGEPORT, Conn.) –John J. Arvanitis, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England and David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that Christopher Allen, 47, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., formerly a Transportation Security Administration officer based at Palm Beach International Airport, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven to 68 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for accepting cash in exchange for facilitating the transportation of illegal narcotics through airport security without detection.  Two other former TSA officers, a former Westchester County Police officer and a former Florida State Trooper have also been charged and convicted as a result of this investigation.

“This defendant received cash payments to assist a known drug trafficker pass safely through airport security with oxycodone pills destined for illegal trafficking in Connecticut,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein.  “Corruption within the ranks of those who are entrusted with the responsibility for screening air travelers and their baggage can never be tolerated.  I commend the DEA Task Force for shutting down a pipeline of highly addictive prescription pills from Florida to Connecticut, and for bringing to justice this federal employee and others who participated in this illegal scheme.”

This matter stems from “Operation Blue Coast,” an investigation headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force into the large-scale trafficking of oxycodone pills from Florida to Connecticut.  The investigation revealed that an individual regularly purchased oxycodone from suppliers in Florida, transported the oxycodone to Connecticut by commercial airline or automobile, and sold the pills to various Connecticut-based narcotics dealers.  The narcotics trafficker purchased oxycodone pills in Florida for approximately $5.00 per pill, and traveled from Florida to Connecticut several times a week carrying up to 8,000 oxycodone pills per trip.  He then used drivers to transport him to and from narcotics transactions during which he would sell the pills to Connecticut-based dealers for between $10.00 and $13.00 per pill.  After exchanging low-denomination currency for larger notes, he transported the proceeds of his oxycodone sales from Connecticut to Florida, either by having a courier drive the money or by using commercial airline flights.  The Connecticut-based dealers sold the pills to lower-level dealers and drug customers for between $23.00 and $30.00 per pill.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Allen, while employed as a TSA officer at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., accepted cash payments from the narcotics trafficker to ensure that the trafficker would not be stopped by TSA officers as he carried oxycodone pills through airport security on his way to Connecticut.  On four occasions between May and August 2011, the narcotics trafficker, who by this time was cooperating with law enforcement, paid Allen $500 in cash to allow the trafficker to travel safely through airport security.  On two of these trips, the narcotics trafficker traveled with an undercover law enforcement officer.
           
As disclosed in court, the evidence in this case includes recorded conversations involving Allen, the cooperating narcotics trafficker and the undercover law enforcement officer.
           
Allen was arrested on September 13, 2011.  On April 16, 2012, he pleaded guilty to one count of extortion under color of right and one count of receipt of a bribe by a public official.
           
Twenty individuals have been charged as a result of this investigation.  Jonathan Best, a TSA officer based at Palm Beach International Airport, Brigitte Jones, a TSA officer based at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, Justin Kolves, a former Florida State Trooper and Michael Brady, a former Westchester County Police officer, also pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to prison terms of 76 months, 45 months, 84 months and 37 months, respectively.

This matter is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which includes personnel from the Connecticut State Police and the Bridgeport, Milford, Norwalk, Stamford and Westport Police Departments; the Drug Enforcement Administration in Florida and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.  In addition, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Greenwich, Monroe, Danbury and Waterbury Police Departments have assisted the investigation.
           
U.S. Attorney Fein also acknowledged the cooperation of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety and the Florida Highway Patrol, and the substantial assistance provided by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.


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