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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Former Southwest Airlines Baggage Handler Pleads Guilty To Violating Airport Security Requirements, Drug Smuggling, And Money Laundering

OAKLAND – Former Southwest Airlines baggage handler Keith Ramon Mayfield pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland today to entering an airport area in violation of security requirements, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to launder money, announced Acting United States Attorney Alex G. Tse; Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett; and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf.  The Honorable Phyllis J. Hamilton, Chief United States District Judge, accepted the plea.

In his plea agreement, Mayfield, 37, of Oakland, admitted that he conspired with others to violate airport security requirements for the purpose of narcotics trafficking.  Mayfield specifically admitted that on at least 40 occasions from 2013 to 2015 he used his access to the Oakland International Airport as a baggage handler for Southwest Airlines to smuggle luggage containing a total of at least 250 kilograms of marijuana around the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint to outbound passengers who had already cleared the TSA security checkpoint.  These passengers then flew to their destinations with unscreened luggage containing marijuana that was then sold in destination cities throughout the United States.  Mayfield also admitted shipping a total of over 100 kilograms of marijuana via Southwest Cargo to various cities throughout the United States for distribution.  Mayfield also admitted that, as a baggage handler for Southwest Airlines, he abused a position of public and private trust in a manner that significantly facilitated the commission and concealment of his crimes.  In addition, Mayfield admitted that he conspired to launder money by having co-conspirators make cash deposits of drug trafficking proceeds totaling at least $51,000 at bank branches in Texas and that he subsequently withdrew most of those funds as cash in Northern California.

On May 28, 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Mayfield along with 12 co-defendants.  On January 16, 2018, the government filed a superseding information charging Mayfield with one count of conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; one count of entering an airport area in violation of security requirements, in violation of 49 U.S.C. §§ 46314(a), (b)(2); and one count of conspiracy to launder money, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h).  Under his plea agreement, Mayfield pleaded guilty to all three counts.  

Chief Judge Hamilton scheduled Mayfield’s sentencing hearing for 2:30 p.m. on June 6, 2018.  Defendant will remain free on a $200,000 secured bond pending sentencing.    

The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of 49 U.S.C. §§ 46314(a), (b)(2) is ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.  The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(b)(1)(B)(vii) is 40 years’ imprisonment, a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, and a fine of $5,000,000.  The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) is 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $500,000.  However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Garth Hire is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Kathleen Turner and Vanessa Quant.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the IRS-CI, and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.  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.

Updated February 22, 2018