Airport Baggage Handlers Charged in Wide-Ranging Conspiracy to Transport Drugs Across the Country
Fourteen persons have been charged in connection with an alleged wide-ranging criminal conspiracy to violate airport security requirements and transport drugs throughout the country announced U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) for the Northern District of California and Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The case highlights the government’s determination to address security concerns in and around the nation’s airports.
In a criminal complaint partially unsealed today, the co-conspirators were described as a drug trafficking organization determined to use the special access some of them had been granted as baggage handlers at the Oakland International Airport to circumvent the security measures in place at the airport. As alleged in the complaint, the baggage handlers entered the Air Operations Area (AOA) of the Oakland Airport while in possession of baggage containing marijuana. The AOA is an area of the airport that is accessible to employees but not to passengers who have completed security screening through a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint. The baggage handlers were not required to pass through a TSA security screening checkpoint to enter the AOA. The baggage handlers then used their security badges to open a secure door that separates the AOA from the sterile passenger terminal where outbound passengers, who have already passed through the TSA security and screening checkpoint, wait to board their flights. The baggage handlers then gave the baggage containing drugs to passengers who then transported the drugs in carry-on luggage on their outbound flights. After arriving in a destination city, the drugs were distributed and sold.
According to the complaint, the conspiracy was operating as early as July 2012. Baggage handlers Kenneth Wayne Fleming, 32, of San Leandro, California; Keith Ramon Mayfield, 34, of Oakland, California; and Michael Herb Videau, 28, of Oakland, California, are accused of using their security badges to cross security barriers while carrying unscreened baggage filled with packages of marijuana. They would then hand off the baggage to co-conspirators, including Major Alexander Session III, 24, of Oakland, California; Clyde Barry Jamerson, 41, of Oakland, California; Kameron Kordero Eldridge Davis, 26, of Dublin, California; Ronnell Lamar Molton, 34, of Oakland, California; Francisco Manuel Carrasco, 29, of Hayward, California; Sophia Cherise West, 44, of Castro Valley, California; and others, who then would board outbound aircraft and bring the drugs to destinations throughout the country. Proceeds from the sale of the marijuana eventually were deposited into accounts controlled by defendants Ahshatae Marie Millhouse, 27, of Oakland, California; Laticia Ann Morris, 40, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Donald Ray Holland II, 42, of Discovery Bay, California; and others. Additionally, Mayfield used his privileges as an airline employee to ship drugs as cargo and have co-conspirators such as Brandon Jarred Davillier, 27, of Slidell, Louisiana, receive them for distribution. The defendants have been charged in a complaint with conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846.
Nine defendants were taken into custody in arrests coordinated throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Arkansas. Eight defendants made their initial appearances this morning before the Honorable U.S. Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore, in Oakland, California. The defendants’ next appearances are scheduled as follows: defendants Holland, Fleming, Baker, Session, Davis and West are scheduled to appear tomorrow morning for a hearing at which they may be appointed counsel. Defendants Mayfield and Videau are scheduled to appear on May 21, 2015, for detention hearings. Defendant Morris made her initial appearance in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was released on bond. Defendants Jamerson and Molton are currently serving state prison sentences in Arkansas and Louisiana, respectively, for possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Defendants Davillier, Millhouse and Carrasco are presently fugitives.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana is 40 years imprisonment and $5 million. The offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.
Additional periods of supervised release, fines and special assessments also could be imposed. Any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
A complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Garth Hire is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Melissa Dorton, Michelle Alter, Kathleen Turner and Vanessa Vargas. This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a focused multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.