Former Baggage Handler Sentenced In Oakland International Airport Pot Smuggling Case

OAKLAND (CBS SF ) — A former baggage handler has become the 10th person to be sentenced in federal court for taking part in a scheme to smuggle marijuana through Oakland International Airport.

Former Southwest Airlines baggage handler Kenneth Fleming, 35, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton to one year and nine months in prison. She ordered him to begin serving his sentence on April 2.

Fleming pleaded guilty before Hamilton in October to three charges: conspiring to distribute marijuana, entering an airport area in violation of security requirements and conspiring to launder money.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Abraham Simmons said that in his plea agreement, Fleming admitted that on four occasions in 2013 and 2014, he used his employee access to security areas of the airport to deliver unscreened baggage containing marijuana to outbound passengers.

The bags he smuggled to the couriers contained a total of 16 kilograms of marijuana, Simmons said.

Fleming also admitted he conspired with others to launder $51,400 in drug trafficking proceeds through his bank account.

Fleming was one of 13 people indicted by a federal grand jury in Oakland in 2015 on charges of participating in a nationwide conspiracy to smuggle marijuana grown in Northern California to at least 10 other states.

The defendants included two other baggage handlers, six courtiers who allegedly carried the suitcases of marijuana onto the planes and four other people accused of aiding in packaging and selling the marijuana.

The nine other defendants sentenced thus far pleaded guilty to distributing marijuana or entering a secured airport area or both. They received prison terms ranging from six months to two years and three months.

One of the remaining defendants, former Southwest Airlines baggage handler Keith Mayfield, 37, of Oakland, is due to enter a change of plea before Hamilton on Feb. 21. Another has a trial scheduled in September and the third remaining defendant will appear at a status conference later this year.