OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Federal agents have busted an alleged marijuana smuggling ring involving baggage handlers working at Oakland International Airport, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag announced Monday 14 people have been charged in an alleged conspiracy to transport marijuana throughout the country, beginning as early as July 2012.
According to a criminal complaint partially unsealed Monday, baggage handlers carrying luggage with marijuana would access an operations area of the airport off-limits to security-screened passengers.
The handlers would allegedly use their security badges to enter the terminal area where screened passengers awaited their outbound flights. The baggage handlers would then hand off the luggage containing the marijuana to passengers to transport as carry-on items.
In some cases, they would meet in the men’s restroom to make the exchange. Here’s an example of an intercepted text:
“I’m @ the gate 30 bathroom handicap stall. Wait in the Bathroom for five mins when u come upstairs. Go the sink like u washing ur hands … ”
The complaint said once the marijuana arrived at a destination city, it was distributed and sold.
According to the complaint, the conspiracy was operating as early as July 2012.
Among those charged are Oakland airport baggage handlers Kenneth Wayne Fleming, 32, of San Leandro; Keith Ramon Mayfield, 34, of Oakland; and Michael Herb Videau, 28, of Oakland.
The three allegedly handed off marijuana-filled luggage to alleged co-conspirators Major Alexander Session III, 24, of Oakland; Clyde Barry Jamerson, 41, of Oakland; Kameron Kordero Eldridge Davis, 26, of Dublin; Ronnell Lamar Molton, 34, of Oakland; Francisco Manuel Carrasco, 29, of Hayward; Sophia Cherise West, 44, of Castro Valley, and others. They were accused of boarding flights from Oakland with the marijuana to destinations throughout the country.
The complaint said proceeds from marijuana sales were allegedly controlled by Ahshatae Marie Millhouse, 27, of Oakland; Laticia Ann Morris, 40, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Donald Ray Holland II, 42, of Discovery Bay; and others.
Mayfield was accused of using his privileges as an airline employee to ship drugs as cargo to co-conspirators such as Brandon Jarred Davillier, 27, of Slidell, Louisiana.
The defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.
Nine were taken into custody in arrests coordinated throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Arkansas, according to the DOJ, with eight of them making an intial court appearance Monday morning in Oakland.
Defendants Jamerson and Molton are already serving state prison sentences in Arkansas and Louisiana, respectively, for marijuana distribution. Defendants Davillier, Millhouse and Carrasco are fugitives and are being sought.
The defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison with a maximum of 40 years imprisonment and $5 million fine.
The DOJ said the arrests are the result of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force which includes a number of federal agencies along with state and local law enforcement.