Ex-TSA Officer Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Smuggle Drugs through Hartsfield-Jackson
ATLANTA - Ex-TSA Officer Richard C. Cook II, 27, of Henry County, Georgia, pleaded guilty today to attempting to smuggle drugs through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, announced Sally Quillian Yates, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “As a TSA agent, Mr. Cook was supposed to be working to keep air travel safe. Instead, he sold his badge and smuggled what he believed to be heroin through the world’s busiest airport. Now he is a convicted felon.”
James E Ward, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Atlanta Field Office, stated, “We are pleased with Mr. Cooks’ guilty plea. DHS-OIG hopes this sends a clear message that there is no place among dedicated professional of DHS for anyone who so shamelessly defies federal law. Mr. Cook will answer for his criminal activities.”
Assistant Chief Deputy United States Marshal Chris Atwater said, “Mr. Cook abused his authority and violated the public’s trust. His convictions on these charges will deter other officers from this type of illegal activity and reassure the public that the unified law enforcement team in this district will not stand for such.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Beginning in January 2012, on multiple occasions, Cook misused his position as an officer with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to smuggle what he believed to be illegal drugs through Atlanta’s airport security.
More specifically, on January 11, 2012, Cook met with two undercover officers, both of whom were posing as drug cartel members. During the meeting, the undercover officers provided Cook with 3 kilograms of fake drugs that Cook believed to be heroin, and $3,500 in cash, which was partial payment to Cook to smuggle the fake drugs through airport security. Thereafter, Cook, who was wearing his TSA uniform, went to the airport, transported the sham drugs through the TSA security checkpoint, and delivered the sham drugs to an undercover officer inside the terminal. Cook was then paid another $4,000 in cash, which was the remaining payment for smuggling the sham drugs through security.
Similarly, on January 26, 2012, Cook met with an undercover officer before Cook reported for his TSA shift at the airport. During this meeting, the undercover officer provided Cook with three kilograms of fake drugs that Cook believed to be heroin, and $4,000 in cash, which was partial payment to Cook to smuggle the fake drugs through airport security. Thereafter, Cook, who was wearing his TSA uniform, went to the airport, transported the fake kilograms through the TSA security checkpoint, and delivered the sham drugs to another undercover officer in the terminal. The undercover officer then paid Cook $3,500, which was the remaining portion of Cook’s fee for smuggling the sham drugs through security. In both sting operations, Cook believed that he was smuggling heroin through airport security.
In February 2012, Cook resigned from the TSA. However, Cook recruited fellow TSA Officer Timothy G. Gregory to assist with the drug smuggling operation. Cook introduced Gregory to the undercover officers who were posing as drug traffickers, and received a referral fee of $1,000.
On February 24, 2012, an undercover officer provided Gregory with five kilograms of fake cocaine and $5,000 in cash. Thereafter, Gregory, who was wearing his TSA uniform, went to the airport, transported the fake cocaine through the TSA security checkpoint, and delivered the sham drugs to another undercover officer in the terminal.
On October 4, 2012, Gregory pleaded to guilty conspiring and attempting to smuggle drugs through Atlanta’s airport. His sentencing is scheduled for December 18, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. before United States District Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr.
Cook’s sentencing is scheduled for January 3, 2013, at 10:30, before United States District Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. Cook could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security - Office of the Inspector General, and the United States Marshals Service.
Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey W. Davis is prosecuting the case.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following web site: www.justthinktwice.com.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney's Public Information Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.