LOS ANGELES – A 28-year-old woman arrested early this morning at Los Angeles International Airport has been charged with trying to smuggle at least a kilogram of cocaine to her hometown of Detroit.
Kennsha Mason, 28, was arrested by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration after boarding a Spirit Airlines flight. Mason is scheduled to make her first court appearance this afternoon United States District Court.
A criminal complaint filed this morning alleges the narcotics were discovered in Mason's luggage after she checked in for a flight bound for Baltimore, which was a layover on a trip to Detroit. After seeing something suspicious in one of the bags during an image scan, the Transportation Security Administration inspected the bag, and discovered three individually wrapped items that were vacuum sealed and wrapped with a layer of carbon paper.
Los Angeles Airport Police responded to the scene, located Mason on her Spirit Airlines flight, and escorted her off the airplane. During a subsequent interview, Mason admitted to DEA special agents that she had previously transported drugs from Los Angeles to Detroit on four or five occasions, and that she was paid $3,500 each time she transported narcotics to Detroit. During the interview recounted in the affidavit, Mason stated that she was working for an individual in Detroit who purchased Mason's airline tickets and directed Mason to a residence in Pasadena, where she obtained the drugs to be delivered to Detroit.
“Our nation's air travel system is designed to carry people to see loved ones and conduct business – not as a means to smuggle narcotics or other contraband,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “We actively work to interdict drug shipments as part of our mission to protect our critical infrastructure. Those who threaten that infrastructure will be subject to vigorous prosecution.”
The complaint charges Mason with possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance. If convicted, she faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
“The trend of criminal organizations utilizing the Los Angeles International Airport to distribute narcotics nationwide is on the rise,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Steve Comer. “Every time an illegal substance is smuggled onto a commercial airliner, it presents an unacceptable compromise to passenger safety. We'll continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to mitigate these threats and bring the violators to justice.”
Mason is charged in relation to only one of the three packages recovered from her luggage. Authorities are in the process of testing the other two packages to confirm the presence of cocaine. The total gross weight of all three packages was approximately four kilograms, which is more than eight pounds.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The DEA Los Angeles International Airport Narcotics Task Force, an inter-agency task force based at LAX, is conducting this investigation. The Task Force is charged with providing a coordinated law enforcement effort to target airport/airline internal criminal enterprises that use the aviation system to transport large amounts of illicit drugs throughout the United States, and throughout the world.
In addition to the DEA, the Task Force is made up of representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Airport Police, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The Task Force also works closely with the United States Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.
The case against Mason is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
USAO – California, Central Updated March 7, 2017
Central District of California DOJ / 17-046 / March 7, 2017
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