A former Transportation Security Administration officer pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges of accepting cash in exchange for allowing illegal prescription painkillers to pass through airport security without detection.
Christopher Allen, 46, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., pleaded guilty to extortion and receipt of a bribe, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Authorities say Allen accepted cash from a trafficker to ensure that the trafficker would not be stopped by TSA officers as he carried oxycodone pills through airport security on his way to Connecticut. He was one of 20 people arrested last year after an investigation by a Drug Enforcement Administration task force.
"This defendant received cash payments to violate his oath of public office and look the other way as large quantities of oxycodone pills passed unlawfully through airport security," U.S. Attorney David Fein said. "For obvious reasons, we cannot tolerate corruption within the ranks of those who are entrusted with the responsibility for screening air travelers and their baggage. I commend the DEA Task Force for shutting down a pipeline of highly addictive prescription pills from Florida to Connecticut, and for bringing to justice this federal employee and others who participated in this illegal scheme."
Allen, while employed as a TSA officer at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., on four occasions last year was paid $500 by the trafficker, who by this time was cooperating with law enforcement, authorities said.
Allen, who is scheduled to be sentenced on July 5, faces up to 20 years in prison on the extortion count and up to 15 years on the bribe count.
In February, Michael Brady, a former New York police officer, admitted accepting cash payments in exchange for permitting the transport of prescription drug trafficking proceeds through Westchester County Airport. The 36-year-old Brady pleaded guilty to bribery and extortion.
A former Florida state trooper, Justin Kolves, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone.