Flight attendant who tried to sneak 70 pounds of cocaine at LAX arrested in New York, authorities say

Less than a day after she dropped a bag loaded with cocaine at a security checkpoint and sprinted out of Los Angeles International Airport, a JetBlue flight attendant managed to board one of her company's planes and travel to New York City, a law enforcement source told the Los Angeles Times.

Marsha Gay Reynolds, 31, of Queens, N.Y., was taken into custody in New York on Wednesday and charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, federal authorities said.

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For the Record

March 23, 8:27 p.m.: A previous version of this story gave Reynolds' age as 32. She is 31.

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Reynolds fled from LAX on Friday night after she was randomly selected for a security screening, the complaint said. Despite the near arrest, Reynolds may have worked as an attendant on the Saturday flight to New York, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to discuss details of the case.

Investigators had yet to identify Reynolds on Saturday, so it is unlikely she raised any alarms when passing through airport security the next day, the source said. It was not clear what airport she flew out of on Saturday.

Reynolds surrendered to Drug Enforcement Administration agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to a statement by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles. She will appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday before she is returned to California, the statement said.

“Our nation's security depends on every individual with security clearances to honor the trust placed in them,” U.S. Atty. Eileen M. Decker said in the statement. “The defendant's conduct violated that trust and, in the process, exposed the public to a major narcotics transaction and the dangers inherent to such a transaction.”

Reynolds faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted. JetBlue said it was cooperating with the DEA and the FBI and declined to comment further.

Reynolds arrived at LAX's Terminal 4 around 7 p.m. Friday and provided her badge to a Transportation Security Administration officer, according to the complaint. The officer confirmed that she was a pre-screened crew member when the scanner randomly selected her for additional security screening. Airport and airline staff aren't subject to routine security checks at LAX.

Reynolds became nervous and made a phone call, talking to someone in a foreign language as she was escorted to a second checkpoint, the complaint said.

As they approached the checkpoint, Reynolds began to walk farther behind the security officer. When they arrived at the screening area, Reynolds dropped her luggage, kicked off her heels and sprinted away from the area, according to the complaint. She barreled down an escalator the wrong way, exited the terminal and kept racing toward Terminal 5, the complaint said.

Security officers did not pursue Reynolds because they were concerned that the abandoned luggage might contain explosives, the complaint said. After bomb-sniffing dogs confirmed that the bags did not contain explosives, Los Angeles Airport police officers discovered 68.49 pounds of cocaine wrapped in 11 separate packages inside the abandoned luggage, the document alleged.

Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Assn., said this week that the incident highlights the need for airline staff members to be subject to the same scrutiny as other passengers traveling through LAX.

“Just like traveling passengers, airport and airline employees should undergo the same screening to help decrease the opportunities for these employees to commit crimes and to help eliminate ‘insider' or ‘lone wolf' criminal activity,” he said in a statement. “It is long overdue that both of these recommendations be implemented.”

McClain also said it was unlikely that Friday marked Reynolds' first attempt to exploit her security clearance.

“I don't believe anybody would trust a mule with that amount of dope the first time out,” he told The Times. “You're talking about $2 million worth of cocaine.... That's pretty troubling. This is more than likely not her first time doing this.” 

She is set to make a court appearance in New York on Thursday.

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT and @lacrimes for crime and police news in Southern California.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

7:12 a.m. Updated with arraignment plan.

10:46 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from U.S. Atty. Eileen M. Decker.

5:33 p.m.: This article was updated to include details from the criminal complaint and law enforcement sources.

This article was first published at 4:32 p.m.

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