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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Former TSA agents charged with trafficking fake drugs

Two metro Atlanta men, both former Transportation Security Administration agents, could face life in prison and $10 million in fines for allegedly helping undercover agents transport fake drugs through airport security.

Richard Cook, II, 27, of Henry County and Timothy Gregory, 25, of Dekalb County were charged Tuesday with multiple crimes related to trafficking what they believed to be cocaine or heroin on different occasions, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation release. The federal indictment comes after months of undercover work and support from numerous federal agencies.

While employed by the TSA at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport earlier this year, both allegedly conspired with undercover agents they believed to be drug cartel members to move more than 10 kilograms of fake heroin and cocaine through airport security on different occasions.

To be clear, both Cook and Gregory are charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine, but only Cook faces heroin-related charges.

“Our nation’s well-being depends, in part, on the security of its airports,” U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said in a release. “The crimes with which Cook and Gregory are charged created a breach in the security of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and betrayed the trust of millions of passengers who travel through this airport each year.”

On a separate occasion, Gregory also agreed to transport 10 kilograms of fake cocaine from Atlanta to Cumming, according to the release.

For those unfamiliar with federal conspiracy laws, folks facing drug charges under the law don’t actually have to commit a bona fide crime (like moving REAL heroin or cocaine through security). Rather, the act of conspiring to do so is a crime itself.

“In drug conspiracies you don’t need to have an overt act,” said Howard Jarrett Weintraub, a former federal prosecutor and Atlanta criminal defense attorney who has worked on dozens of federal drug cases. “It appears from the indictment they definitely entered into an agreement to do that and committed overt acts to further that agreement.”

The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and Department of Homeland Security-Office of the Inspector General are investigating the case.

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