Airtran Employee Arrested for Attempting to Possess Cocaine
Allowed Contraband to Bypass Security Checkpoints
ATLANTA - Rasondo Maurice Norris has been charged in a federal criminal complaint on charges of attempting to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute.
“Security screening at our airports is vital to keeping citizens safe,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “By using his credentials to bypass security with backpacks of contraband, the defendant allowed what he believed to be drugs and weapons onboard commercial flights. Public safety is a responsibility we take seriously, and our office will continue to prosecute those who are endangering our citizens.”
“HSI special agents and our partners from the ATF, DEA and the Federal Air Marshal Service have identified and eliminated a significant security threat at Hartsfield-Jackson,” said Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. “While this defendant may have abused his access to secure areas at the airport for simple greed, HSI and our law enforcement partners will remain vigilant in ensuring that any potential security holes are identified and patched as quickly as possible.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Norris, 29, of Stone Mountain, Ga., worked as a baggage handler for AirTran Airlines. In May 2013, Special Agents of HSI learned that, for a fee, Norris would help people involved in criminal activity bring contraband onto airplanes by using his security clearance to bypass security.
On or about May 23, 2013, an HSI Special Agent, acting in an undercover capacity, gave the defendant a backpack containing what was represented to be five kilograms of cocaine. Norris took the backpack from the undercover agent, bypassed security, and returned the backpack back to the agent once the agent cleared security. In a similar manner, on May 30, 2013, Norris again bypassed security with a backpack, this time containing what was represented to be $500,000 in drug proceeds. Finally, on June 5, 2013, Norris once more bypassed security with a backpack carrying what was represented to be three kilograms of cocaine, and a Mack 11 automatic firearm (which had been previously rendered inert by law enforcement agents), a magazine and a silencer. Norris was paid between $600 and $800 each time he bypassed security with the contraband.
The criminal complaint charges two counts of attempting to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for count one and 40 years in prison for count two and a fine of up to $10,000,000 for count one and $5,000,000 for count two. 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.
Norris is scheduled for a bond hearing on June 12, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Vineyard.
The agents who investigated this case are assigned to the David G. Wilhelm OCDETF Strike Force and are employed by the following law enforcement agencies: the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation; and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Assistant United States Attorney Kamal Ghali is prosecuting the case.
Members of the public are reminded that the complaint contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
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 Affairs 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.