Flight attendant in LAX cocaine case to plead guilty

Posted at 4:31 PM, Dec 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-09 19:31:10-05

LOS ANGELES - An ex-JetBlue Airways flight attendant accused of trying to smuggle nearly 70 pounds of cocaine worth up to $3 million in her carry-on luggage and fleeing when she was pulled aside for a random baggage search at Los Angeles International Airport is set to plead guilty Monday to a federal charge, according to documents obtained by City News Service.

Marsha Gay Reynolds, 32, is expected to enter her plea to a single count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The felony charge is punishable by a 10-year mandatory minimum prison term, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Reynolds was initially charged with possession with intent to distribute, but the allegations against her have expanded to conspiracy involving an unindicted co-conspirator, papers show.

Reynolds, of Queens, New York, sprinted down an up escalator and out of LAX, leaving behind her luggage, after she was randomly selected for secondary screening March 18.

The following day, she worked a JetBlue flight back to New York and surrendered to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents there on March 23, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy.

A former beauty pageant contestant in Jamaica, Reynolds had been a New York-based JetBlue employee for six years. Her lawyer said she was also a nursing student, but withdrew from school before her arrest.

The drug discovery was made March 18 in Terminal 4 by a Transportation Security Administration security officer who was screening the airline attendant's carry-on bags as part of a random search. As a crew member, Reynolds would ordinarily get to bypass bag screening.

As the TSA officer led Reynolds to a location to be searched, she made a cellphone call -- speaking in what sounded like a foreign language -- then kicked off her Gucci high heels and ran from the terminal down the up escalator, according to an affidavit filed in the case.

"Upon being notified she was going to secondary screening, she appeared nervous and kept her distance from the supervisor," U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte said at an April hearing. "And before the bags were even open, she utilized her track skills to flee from the airport."

Reynolds' abandoned luggage was found to contain 11 individually wrapped packages -- labeled "Big Ranch" -- that were taken to the Los Angeles police's Forensic Science Division, where the contents tested positive for cocaine, court papers show.

"It takes a very bold criminal to run through the airport -- and come back the next day and flee the district," El-Amamy said after the April hearing.

In the wake of the foiled drug-smuggling attempt, Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Police Officers Association, called for 100 percent screening of all airport employees.