|U.S. Connecticut attorney David B. Fein announces the 20 smuggling related arrests|
image credit: Douglas Healey for the New York Times
“Do you desire to protect American interests and secure our Nation while building a meaningful and rewarding career?” After this opening appeal, the job summary for a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) goes on to state that working for the Transportation Security Administration is working “to safeguard the American way of life.”
After the 2001 September 11 attacks, Congress chose to create the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a new agency handling security for transportation, by allocating responsibility and funds from the Federal Aviation Administration. Airlines or private contractors previously handled this work.
This past Tuesday, September 13 three TSA officers, Christopher Allen of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; John Best of Port St. Lucie, Fla.; and Brigitte Jones of the Bronx, N.Y., were arrested for assisting in interstate drugs trafficking and the transport of cash proceeds resulting from the sales of these prescription pills. The narcotic oxycodone was transported from Florida to Connecticut by way of New York. The resulting cash profit was then transported back to Florida. Two police officers, Michael Brady of Westchester County, N.Y., and Justin Kolves of Florida state were also charged as well as fifteen other civilians involved.
As stated on the TSA website, the duties and responsibilities of a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) are to “implement security-screening procedures that are central to Transportation Security Administration objectives” and to “protect the traveling public by preventing any deadly or dangerous objects from being transported onto an aircraft.” For around $500 a trip, Allen, Best and Jones coordinated with drug couriers to allow them passage onto commercial flights with large amounts of oxycodone and cash. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) five-month investigation revealed that the civilians carrying the drugs to sell the pills for profit in New England would make several trips a week. It has not yet been released how long this drug ring has been in operation, but it is possible that it has been in action for at least a year amounting to more than 65 flights from Florida to New York. One man arrested in April that triggered the investigation said he paid Brady more than $20,000 for unhindered passage.
Brady, a police officer working for the Department of Public Safety in Westchester County, could have been earning an annual salary of around $53,000 to $62,000. A Transportation Security Officer like Allen, Best and Jones is in the Transportation Security Administration’s D or E pay band, which ranges from a minimum of $25,518 to a maximum of $44,007. In a written statement TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said, “TSA holds its security officers to the highest professional and ethical standards and has a zero tolerance policy for criminal activity in the workplace. The actions of a few individuals in no way reflect on the outstanding job our more than 50,000 security officers do every day to ensure the security of the traveling public.” The key requirements for a potential Transportation Security Officer is to pass a background investigation including a credit and criminal check, a drug screening and medical evaluation, and no defaults over $7,500, delinquent debts or taxes. And, of course, a Transportation Security Officer must “desire to protect American interests and secure our Nation.”