Lindbergh Field baggage handlers indicted, accused of smuggling drugs onto airplanes

SAN DIEGO - Four Lindbergh Field baggage handlers accused of conspiring to smuggle drugs onto airplanes were indicted by a federal grand jury, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Monday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said four Delta Global Services employees are charged in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine to Hawaii and other locations "by exploiting their ability to pass unchecked through security screening areas."

Additionally, seven other people -- who are not employed at San Diego International Airport -- have also been indicted.

Federal authorities said Felix Samuel Garcia, Paulo Mendez Perez and Saul Bojorquez, all current or former employees of Delta Global Services, which provides ground services for several airlines, flashed 2 badges numerous times and walked through checkpoints with drugs in their backpacks. Brian Alberto Gonzalez, also a DGS employee, allegedly worked as a courier.

According to the indictment, the accused handlers made contact with drug couriers in airport restrooms in the secured area of Terminal 2, where they would wait for adjoining stalls to become available. Once inside, the accused handlers would hand off the cocaine and methamphetamine under the stalls' divider.

Federal authorities said the couriers would then board flights and proceed to destinations like New York City, Nashville, Detroit, Baltimore and Hawaii, where they were met by other members of the drug trafficking organization.

While the street price of methamphetamine in San Diego is about $5,000 a pound, the value skyrockets to $25,000 a pound in Hawaii.

Also charged in the indictment: Sergio Mejia-Gamboa, Angel Ortega, David Camacho, Jesus Morales, Candelario Perez, Israel Acosta and Henry Garcia-Arambula. All were arrested last week during sweeps by federal agents. All defendants are in custody but Ortega.

"This was a brazen scheme to smuggle drugs right under the noses of airport security officials," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "We aren't going to let dangerous drugs fly in unchecked bags in the overhead bins of commercial aircraft."

"Throughout this investigation, DEA San Diego's Narcotic Task Force worked closely with law enforcement counterparts nationwide, including airport authorities, to ensure the successful apprehension and dismantlement of this drug trafficking organization," said DEA San Diego Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gary Hill. "All agencies involved understand how important the security protocols of our airports are, and will continue to work together to formulate plans to thwart other criminal elements from exploiting and circumventing airport security in the future."

According to a complaint, agents seized 8 kilograms (17 pounds) of cocaine with an estimated street value of $144,000; 18 pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $90,000 in San Diego and up to $450,000 in Hawaii; and $103,846 in cash during the yearlong investigation.

It's believed to be the first federal drug prosecution of airport employees at San Diego's largest airport.

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