Flight Attendants Charged In $8 Million Drug Money Scheme

Flight Attendants Charged In $8 Million Drug Money Scheme

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Several flight attendants have just been arrested, and are accused of smuggling $8 million in drug money from the United States to the Dominican Republic. Ouch!

Flight attendants transported $8 million to Dominican Republic

On Tuesday, May 7, 2024, four people were arrested, related to charges from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Specifically, the four people are all flight attendants for major international airlines, between the ages of 34 and 42. They’re accused of having transported $8 million in drug money from the United States to the Dominican Republic.

According to the accusations, the four had for years been smuggling narcotics trafficking proceeds from New York Kennedy Airport (JFK) to the Dominican Republic on commercial flights, taking advantage of their special privileges.

All of the defendants had Known Crewmember (KCM) status with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), allowing them to bypass the standard security screening, and instead use a special lane that’s subject to a lot less scrutiny.

Authorities started to become aware of this scheme a few years back, and in October 2021, they got the help of a cooperating witness. This person coordinated for the flight attendants to transport the proceeds from selling drugs back to the Dominican Republic, and they’d get a small percentage cut on the money they were transporting.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) set up a sting operation, whereby the government provided funds that were positioned as narcotics proceeds, to transport to the Dominican Republic. The flight attendants did indeed transport that money to the Dominican Republic, and it then ended up being returned.

The four now face a variety of charges:

  • Each person has been charged with one count of operation of an unlicensed money transmission business, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison
  • Each person has been charged with one count of entering an airport or aircraft in violation of security requirements, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison
  • Two of the four people have additionally been charged with one count of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmission business, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison
  • One of the four people has additionally been charged with one count of bulk cash smuggling, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison

Here’s how US Attorney Damian Williams describes this:

“As alleged, these flight attendants smuggled millions of dollars of drug money and law enforcement funds that they thought was drug money from the United States to the Dominican Republic over many years by abusing their privileges as airline employees.  Today’s charges should serve as a reminder to those who break the law by helping drug traffickers move their money that crime doesn’t pay.”

These people used Known Crewmember checkpoints

I’m surprised Known Crewmember is still a thing

As you can see, the flight attendants in this case used their Known Crewmember privileges in order to be able to access the secure area of the airport without having to undergo full security screening

Much of the traveling public doesn’t realize that Known Crewmember is a thing, but this does exist, and allows eligible airline pilots and flight attendants to skip security, and instead just enter the secure area of an airport by providing ID. Now, it’s worth emphasizing that those using Known Crewmember are still subject to random screenings at times, so it’s not a totally foolproof way to bring something through security.

However, over the years we’ve seen a countless number of airline employees abuse these privileges to transport everything from drugs to large amounts of cash. Of course a vast majority of airline employees follow the rules, though with the volume of people using these checkpoints, there are going to be some bad apples.

I’m surprised that despite these repeated incidents, Known Crewmember seems to continue to be available, largely in the same way as before. Now, admittedly most of the “issues” involving Known Crewmember aren’t things that cause safety issues, but rather involve unrelated schemes (like drugs). However, if people are so easily able to smuggle all these things through Known Crewmember checkpoints, then one has to wonder what kind of things are not being caught…

We’ve seen stories along these lines way too often

Bottom line

Four flight attendants have been arrested for transporting millions of dollars worth of drug money between the United States and the Dominican Republic. Cartels would send drugs to the United States, and then these flight attendants would transport the proceeds from that back to the Dominican Republic, in exchange for a cut.

They used their Known Crewmember credentials in order to get through security without arousing suspicion, and were only caught after a cooperating witness helped.

What do you make of this case, and the general merits of Known Crewmember checkpoints?

Conversations (24)
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  1. John Guest

    Once at the IND airport a crew member flashing her KCM credentials to skip the normal TSA Pre line while the line for crew members was active and manned and no crew members were going through. She could have easily used that line and not jumped ahead.

  2. iamhere Guest

    So much for ethics and integrity.
    The key point is they knowingly were involved.

  3. Just This Once Guest

    As crew myself, I don't ever use KCM because of the VERY high random selection for security screening...which then processes thru the same security as everyone else so I'm not sure KCM is the culprit (although I'm sure at times the individuals got lucky and got through there on occasion). However, I'm not sure TSA is screening for drugs but rather looking for weapons and other items that can be a threat to the security of an aircraft.

  4. N1120A Guest

    KCM was created because TSA were engaging in idiocy like forcing pilots to either go through dangerous backscatter naked machines or be felt up, which pilots started protesting and almost led to strikes. They literally have 500 mph metal tubes full of fuel at their disposal and a bunch of them are even allowed to carry guns. Further, lines already take FAR too long due to TSA theater - adding crew to them would be...

    KCM was created because TSA were engaging in idiocy like forcing pilots to either go through dangerous backscatter naked machines or be felt up, which pilots started protesting and almost led to strikes. They literally have 500 mph metal tubes full of fuel at their disposal and a bunch of them are even allowed to carry guns. Further, lines already take FAR too long due to TSA theater - adding crew to them would be worse. KCM ultimately has never endangered a flight, which is the entire purpose of the program.

    1. Biglaw V10 Partner Guest

      DHS was in a tough spot politically after 9/11. Officials are well aware of the idiocy of idiotic policies -- but the majority of American citizens are imbeciles susceptible to fearmongers. DHS had to crank up the amount of visible and intrusive security to prevent a revolt of American idiots.

      To the credit of DHS, many of these policies have been rolled back. TSA PreCheck was a game changer. Machine-reading IDs via CAT (credential authentication...

      DHS was in a tough spot politically after 9/11. Officials are well aware of the idiocy of idiotic policies -- but the majority of American citizens are imbeciles susceptible to fearmongers. DHS had to crank up the amount of visible and intrusive security to prevent a revolt of American idiots.

      To the credit of DHS, many of these policies have been rolled back. TSA PreCheck was a game changer. Machine-reading IDs via CAT (credential authentication technology), obviating the presentation of a boarding pass, was a game changer. Facial recognition/digital ID is being tested and could also be a game changer.

      In 10 years the ID verification step of TSA will operate in the background. You'll walk right up to a conveyer belt for your bags and if there's a problem, like you're on the no-fly list or you don't actually have a ticketed flight, you will be pulled aside.

      CT instead of X-ray baggage scanners in some scanning lanes mean even non-PreCheck passengers don't have to remove anything from bags. The ANALOGIC machines are slow but I am confident they will be fixed or replaced with something faster.

      The only remaining bottleneck is having to take off your jacket, having to remove your cell phone - these should be fixable with future body scanning tech.

      Eventually all screening will be like what JSX currently does, you just walk through.

    2. George Romey Guest

      Until some politician looking for victim points will claim this will make flying more dangerous and all the hard working TSA agents will lose their job. And the sheep will completely agree. Remember this isn't private enterprise.

  5. Alec Member

    I think the bigger risk is someone (terrorist) blackmailing/threatening a crew member to actually bring something more nefarious onto the plane or airport

  6. Jerry Diamond

    Regarding KCM, it's irrelevant in this case. The job of the TSA isn't to look for cash being smuggled; their job is to look for threats to aviation security. Specifically seeking anything else out is probably a 4th amendment violation. So while KCM may have aided them to a degree, TSA shouldn't specifically be looking for cash.

  7. Never In Doubt Guest

    The bat signal for Tim Dunn may only light if the title includes “Delta”. A picture of a Delta plane alone might not do it.

  8. Flyguy1 Guest

    KCM should really be just for pilots, since they have complete access to the flight deck anyway and some are even armed under the FFDO program. Most pilots wouldn't risk their career and education doing silly stuff like this, whereas many FAs are not as well rounded or don't utilize critical thinking of the risk they take doing illegal things like this. (There are many great FAs still and I have respect for them and...

    KCM should really be just for pilots, since they have complete access to the flight deck anyway and some are even armed under the FFDO program. Most pilots wouldn't risk their career and education doing silly stuff like this, whereas many FAs are not as well rounded or don't utilize critical thinking of the risk they take doing illegal things like this. (There are many great FAs still and I have respect for them and their job). FAs have limited flight deck access like when serving meals or pilot bathroom break, but other than that do not constantly control the aircraft. .

  9. Eskimo Guest

    So was it Delta or JetBlue or both?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Eskimo -- We know at least two were Delta flight attendants. I haven't been able to figure out which airline the other two worked for, but I'd guess it's JetBlue, based on the route network.

    2. digital_notmad Diamond

      Those two were smuggling money from the premium drugs

  10. Marsha Miller Guest

    Yes legalize drugs brilliant!! More dead children teens & adults!! Just perfect. What a good idea!!! More dead people!

    1. Make it make sense Guest

      If guns are legal why can’t drugs be

      Drugs don’t kill people. People who use drugs kill themselves

      Note the logic im trying to use here

    2. Mason Guest

      @Make it make sense

      Your name is suggesting what exactly you've gotta do. You think that killing others and killing themselves are the same thing?

    3. Just another moron Guest

      Let’s ban alcohol also! And fatty foods! Let’s all decide what everyone else has to do and then lock them up if they don’t like it! And create more illegal things so that more people are attracted to gang life because of the money to be made from things being illegal and therefore higher priced despite being tax-free! Prohibition is always the answer, it’s never failed!!

  11. 767-223 Guest

    Not for or against KCM but drug and money smuggling have been going on long before KCM and TSA. Just look at the ammunition incidents in Turks and Caicos. Not confident that even if these 4 flight attendants would have been caught if they went through traditional security.

  12. Biglaw V10 Partner Guest

    Completely victimless crimes. Drugs should be legal in the first place. Drug use is a health problem. It shouldn’t have anything to do with the law. The fact Americans misunderstand this is completely insane. We imprison so many harmless people for drug “offenses” when we should be giving them healthcare and economic opportunities.

    Money should move freely. I’m tired of government scrutiny of what I’m doing with my money. The government needs tax revenue I...

    Completely victimless crimes. Drugs should be legal in the first place. Drug use is a health problem. It shouldn’t have anything to do with the law. The fact Americans misunderstand this is completely insane. We imprison so many harmless people for drug “offenses” when we should be giving them healthcare and economic opportunities.

    Money should move freely. I’m tired of government scrutiny of what I’m doing with my money. The government needs tax revenue I understand, my wife and I pay $10 million a year in taxes. When I’m moving money at airports, the government should mind their own business. If you believe my money was illegally procured, the time to investigate that was during the procurement, not during transport. And as I said above, drug trades should be legal.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      They not only they care if money was illegally procured, they also care if you use that money to fund war hunger factions like Hamas, Netanyahu, Zelenskyy, or Putin.

    2. yoloswag420 Guest

      Ofc the DEI hire Biglaw is in favor of drug use and criminals.

      You can take the hoodrat out of the slums, but not the slum out of the hoodrats.

    3. Donato Guest

      Get real!
      If you do indeed pay that amount of taxes you should have no issue doing bank transfers, the civilized way to transport funds.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Marsha Miller Guest

Yes legalize drugs brilliant!! More dead children teens & adults!! Just perfect. What a good idea!!! More dead people!

3
767-223 Guest

Not for or against KCM but drug and money smuggling have been going on long before KCM and TSA. Just look at the ammunition incidents in Turks and Caicos. Not confident that even if these 4 flight attendants would have been caught if they went through traditional security.

2
Mason Guest

@Make it make sense Your name is suggesting what exactly you've gotta do. You think that killing others and killing themselves are the same thing?

1
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