Nearly a dozen Bay Area residents — three of which worked as bag handlers at Oakland Airport — have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to use special security access to ship and distribute marijuana throughout the country.
According to the Department of Justice, from July 2012 through March of this year, the baggage handlers used their special clearance to avoid security checkpoints while carrying duffel bags filled with marijuana, then placed them on specific flights (Southwest Airlines has been named). The bags were then picked up at the destination's baggage claim by co-conspirators on the flight. A total of fourteen people have been charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to sell 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.
The accused bag handlers are Kenneth Wayne Fleming, 32, of San Leandro, and Keith Ramon Mayfield, 34, and Michael Herb Videau, 28, of The Smoking Bud’s very own Oakland, CA. Money from the sale of the smuggled marijuana was stored in accounts belonging to Ahshatae Marie Millhouse, 27, of Oakland; Laticia Ann Morris, 40, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Donald Ray Holland II, 42, of Discover Bay; among others. Those accused of smuggling marijuana across the country include Major Alexander Session III, 24, of Oakland; Clyde Barry Jamerson, 41, of Oakland; Ronnell Lamar Molton, 34, of Oakland; Kameron Kordero Eldridge Davis, 26, of Dublin; Francisco Manuel Carrasco, 29, of Hayward; and Sophia Cherise West, 44, of Castro Valley.
Officials say phone records suggest the smugglers may have also used San Jose and San Francisco airports, and at least on of the co-conspirators posted photos of large amounts of cash and marijuana on Instagram. (Come on.)
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been investigating this specific smuggling ring since May 2013 and have made multiple related seizures and arrests across the country.
While you’d almost expect this to be a PR nightmare for the companies involved, both Oakland Airport and Southwest seem to be making out alright, as no bodily injuries were sustained, customers affected, or harm was caused to their businesses.
Oakland International Airport released a statement saying they were working with law enforcement from start and were “pleased to see the investigation concluding and the people involved held accountable.”
A statement from Southwest Airlines said they “will continue to work with law enforcement, airport authorities, and our security partners to perform due diligence in upholding high security standards.”
Yes, very high indeed.