LOS ANGELES – A Jamaican national was sentenced today to 165 months in federal prison for supplying a JetBlue flight attendant with nearly 60 pounds of cocaine that she attempted to smuggle onboard a flight at Los Angeles International Airport.
Gaston Brown, 42, of Clarendon, Jamaica, was sentenced by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder.
A federal grand jury indicted Brown in January 2017, charging him with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, one count of unlawful use of a means of identification, one count of use of a counterfeit access device, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
At the conclusion of a four-day trial in February 2018, a jury found Brown guilty of all charges.
On six occasions between October 2015 and March 2016, Brown paid JetBlue flight attendant Marsha Gay Reynolds, 35, of Jamaica, New York, to transport cocaine and drug money across the country. Brown paid her to carry the drugs and cash in suitcases through “known crewmember” checkpoints at LAX and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. As a known crewmember, Reynolds was subjected to much lighter screening at airport security checkpoints and would be able to transport the cash and cocaine without being stopped.
To evade detection by law enforcement, Brown, an illegal immigrant and convicted felon, used identities he had stolen from two mentally disabled men so he could meet Reynolds in the “sterile” area of the airport, past security. While in the airport’s sterile area, he retook possession of the drug- and cash-laden suitcases, and traveled across the country with them, undetected.
On March 18, 2016, Brown supplied approximately 27 kilograms (59.5 pounds) of cocaine to Reynolds. She then attempted to board a JetBlue flight in Terminal 4 at LAX. After showing her official badge and identification to the Transport Security Administration officer on duty at the known crewmember checkpoint, Reynolds was randomly selected for additional screening. Reynolds was then escorted to a secondary screening area. Upon arriving at this checkpoint, Reynolds dropped her luggage, removed her shoes, and fled the area, running down an upward-traveling escalator and away from TSA officers.
Reynolds eventually surrendered herself to the Drug Enforcement Administration at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on March 23, 2016. She remained in custody while her case was pending and ultimately pleaded guilty in December 2016 to one count of conspiracy to possess and to distribute cocaine. In April 2018, she was given credit for time served and was released. Brown was indicted for the charges in this case while in federal custody for attempting to illegally re-enter the United States in April 2016 following deportation.
This investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles International Airport Criminal Enterprise Task Force (LAACETF), an inter-agency task force based at LAX. The Task Force, which includes representatives of the FBI, the DEA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, the Los Angeles International Airport Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The LAACETF provides a coordinated law enforcement effort to target airport/airline internal criminal enterprises that use the aviation system to transport large amounts of illicit drugs throughout the United States and various international destinations.
Assistant United States Attorney Suria M. Bahadue of the General Crimes Section prosecuted this case.