Ex-TSA officer charged with trying to smuggle meth after LAX sting operations
A former Transportation Security Administration officer was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of attempting to distribute methamphetamine after sting operations at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said.
In two incidents in 2020, Michael Williams of Hawthorne received fake methamphetamine from an informant who was working with the federal government and agreed to deliver the packages to an accomplice in a restroom on the secure side of the LAX terminal, prosecutors said. He did not know the accomplice was an undercover federal agent.
Williams, 39, was paid $8,000 for smuggling two packages of what he thought was methamphetamine through security checkpoints by using his unscreened access to LAX as a TSA officer, according to the criminal complaint. Authorities conducting the undercover operations had suspected Williams was helping to smuggle drugs through the airport.
The smuggling operation surfaced in August 2019, when authorities found roughly 60 pounds of methamphetamine in a shipping container sent from Los Angeles to Kentucky, according to court documents.
The semi-truck at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry was hauling nearly $3 million of methamphetamine disguised with “unusual” detail, officials said.
Two people were arrested in connection with the seizure of drugs in Kentucky, including a person prosecutors refer to as the cooperating defendant, or CD-1.
After agents obtained a search warrant, they found a number on CD-1’s phone that he exchanged messages with about the container and the container number. CD-1 used FaceTime and WhatsApp to contact TSA employees, including Williams, according to court records.
CD-1 arranged for Williams to smuggle methamphetamine based around his work schedule at LAX, prosecutors said. Williams would receive the fake drugs from CD-1 outside LAX, then take the package into the airport.
Both times, Williams waited for his contact in a men’s restroom, signaled to the person to take the stall next to his and then delivered the fake drugs, according to an affidavit from a federal agent.
The ‘Green Gaiter Bandit’ robbed or attempted to rob at least 12 banks in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
On the first delivery in January 2020, Williams handed the fake drugs in a pillowcase and was paid $4,000. Other undercover agents saw Williams in the stall making the delivery and then leaving the restroom in his TSA uniform. After he made the delivery, Williams texted CD-1, “We good solid bro.”
Federal agents requested that a judge allow them to press Williams’ thumb to his phone to unlock it to search for evidence.
In the August 2020 undercover operation, the fake methamphetamine was in a brown Chipotle bag that Williams laid on the floor in the men’s restroom at LAX, prosecutors said. The undercover agent then slid back $4,000 in cash in an empty potato chip bag.
Williams was expected to make his first appearance in a downtown Los Angeles federal courtroom on Wednesday afternoon.
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