TSA Agents From Palm Beach International Arrested in Drug Case

leifertlaw September 14, 2011 Drug Crimes

Three TSA agents — including two who work at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla. — have been arrested in connection with an alleged scam in which they took bribes and let people smuggle painkillers and cash, The New York Times reports.

Drug cases in West Palm Beach and throughout South Florida can take on extreme penalties, especially if federal prosecutors are involved. Drug cases can be charged either in state or federal court, usually depending on the severity of the allegations and the defendant’s criminal record, if any.

Defendants facing these charges must be well-represented because the possible prison time can increase as prosecutors file more and more charges. That’s why hiring a West Palm Beach Drug Defense Attorney with years of experience both as a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney can make a big difference.

According to The Times article, the Transportation Security Administration workers now face charges of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone. The officers were among 20 people arrested following a five-month investigation, the newspaper reports.

The pills were carried from Florida — known for its problem with prescription pill distribution — and Connecticut. Two other officers — a Westchester County, N.Y., police officer and Florida Highway Patrol trooper — were also charged in the case.

Prosecutors allege that the TSA officers were paid $500 every time they let couriers travel through a security checkpoint at the West Palm Beach and Westchester County airports. The couriers smuggled as many as 8,000 pills per trip, as well as cash.The Westchester airport is just minutes away from Connecticut.

In one wire-taped conversation between an undercover witness and one of the defendants, one of the TSA officers was asked how best to smuggle a gun through the security checkpoint at the New York airport. In another incident, one of the TSA officers halted the questioning of a man with $100,000 in cash by other officers.

When law enforcement agencies take on huge investigations that end in the arrests of many people, it is often possible that charges against some of the defendants — usually the least involved — are trumped up in order for authorities to have their dog-and-pony-show press conferences for the media.

Often, once the case begins progressing, an experienced West Palm Beach Defense Attorney can weed through the bogus charges to decipher the facts, and then separate them from the fiction provided by the law enforcement agency.

But in these larger-scale cases, there are bound to be opportunities for plea deals. And while most defendants don’t want to discuss the possibility if they believe they are innocent, this may be a strategy worth exploring. Here’s why: When the state charges several people as part of a larger conspiracy, a favorable outcome for the state typically won’t occur with police witnesses alone. To solidify a case against ringleaders, the state must have defendants who agree to testify for the prosecution. And because the state often is so willing to make this happen, its attorneys offer unbeatable plea deals to defendants. In some cases, if a defendant is facing a decade or more in prison if convicted, he or she might agree that spending two years — or about 85 percent of two years based on Florida’s rules for prisoners — is a deal worth taking.

Then again, if there is strong evidence that the person did not commit the alleged crime, perhaps the deal isn’t worthwhile. Or maybe holding out can help the person avoid a felony, have adjudication withheld, or minimize prison time and serve a probation sentence.

An experienced lawyer will be able to get the best deal not by being the first to jump at the state’s offer, but the attorney who presents the most compelling argument that the facts against his or her client do not match up to a conviction.

If you are arrested on drug charges in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Leifert & Leifert at 954-523-9600 or 561-988-8000 for a free consultation.

More Blog Entries:

VA Medical Center Raid Nets 17 Arrests for Drugs in Riviera Beach: August 24, 2011
Drug Court Hits 20th Anniversary of Helping Defendants in Fort Lauderdale: July 27, 2011
Additional Resources:

Airport Security Officers Charged in Drug Case, by Kristin Hussey, The New York Times

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Leifert & Leifert



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