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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Flight Attendant Pleads Guilty To Airport Security Violations And Unlicensed Money Transmitting

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that SCOTT McKINNEY, a former flight attendant, pled guilty today to conspiring both to violate airport security requirements and to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business. 

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Scott McKinney abused his privileges as an airline employee, including misusing the known crewmember lane, to smuggle bulk cash through security and then across the country, in furtherance of an illegal money transmitting business.  McKinney’s scheme is now grounded, and he faces the possibility of time in a federal prison.”

According to the Complaint, Indictment, and other documents filed in the case, as well as statements made during the plea proceedings:

Between July and November 2017, McKINNEY, a flight attendant based in California, conspired with others to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and to violate airport security requirements.  On several occasions, McKINNEY flew from California to New York to pick up packages containing $50,000 or more in cash at JFK Airport or other locations in New York City.  McKINNEY then flew back to California with the cash.  On some of these occasions, McKINNEY was on the ground at JFK Airport for two hours or less before flying back to California.  At the time of these trips, McKINNEY did not have a money transmitting license in New York or California, and was not registered as a money transmitter with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.  In a statement to agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) on or about September 15, 2017, McKINNEY admitted that he was aware of the licensing requirement and lacked such a license.

To facilitate his illegal money transmitting business, McKINNEY used the Known Crewmember (“KCM”) lane to bypass regular airport security screening.  The KCM lane allows approved airline crewmembers to pass through security more quickly and, typically, without having their carry-on luggage screened.  On several occasions, McKINNEY wore his crewmember uniform and used the KCM security lane – even though he was not working on those occasions – to smuggle bulk cash through airport security. 

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McKINNEY, 49, of San Diego, California, pled guilty to one count of conspiring both to violate airport security requirements and to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The statutory maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.  McKINNEY is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Failla on October 31, 2018, at 3:30 p.m.

Mr. Berman praised HSI for its outstanding work on this case.

This matter is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Michael D. Neff is in charge of the prosecution.

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
Updated July 10, 2018