A woman once paid to enforce rules and regulations at Westchester County Airport has been sentenced to serve more than three years in prison for helping a drug trafficking operation work around them.
United States District Judge Janet C. Hall sentenced former Transportation Administration officer Brigitte Jones, 49, of the Bronx, to serve 45 months in prison Thursday for accepting cash payments to help smuggle narcotics through the airport. Jones will also serve three years of supervised release at the conclusion of her jail term.
More than 20 people have been charged during a federal investigation into the large trafficking operation that smuggled Oxycodone pills from Florida to Connecticut, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office.
Six people, including Justin Kolves, a former Florida State Trooper, and Michael Brady, a former Westchester County Police officer, have also entered guilty pleas in Federal Court.
In April Jones pleaded guilty to one count of extortion under color of right and one count of receipt of a bribe by a public official.
“This defendant knew that a drug trafficker was transporting illegal narcotics and narcotics trafficking proceeds through Westchester Country Airport,” U.S. Attorney Fein said in a statement. “Instead of doing the job she was sworn to do, stopping and revealing this illegal activity, she took cash to allow it to continue."
Jones was arrested on Sept. 13, 2011 after a federal investigation revealed Jones had agreed to accept cash from a narcotics trafficker who had been moving large quantities of Oxycodone from Florida to Westchester County Airport, announced David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.
The pills were then sold in Connecticut and cash proceeds were flown or driven by a courier back to Florida, Fein said.
According to court testimony, Jones accepted payment to allow the trafficker to pass through security and then guided him out of the airport, making sure other TSA agents didn’t stop him. The operation was unveiled during an investigation headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.
Christopher Allen and Jonathan Best, two TSA officers who were based at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida, have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Kolves is currently serving a seven year prison sentence, Brady is serving 37 months.
The drug operation involved the frequent purchase of Oxycodone from a supplier in Florida for approximately $5 per-pill. The trafficker then moved the drugs via commercial airplane or automobile to Connecticut. Trips were made several times a week with up to 8,000 pills carried in each trip, Fein announced. Once the pills reached Connecticut, they were sold to various local narcotics dealers for between $10.50 and $13 a pill, according to Fein's statement.
Between May 19 and June 28, 2011, the Florida narcotics trafficker, who was at this time working with law enforcement, met with Jones three times. According to Fein, Jones accepted $1,200 over the course of those meetings.
The trafficker working with investigators has not been identified.
During a meeting on June 27, 2011, Jones is recorded saying, “Just tell me what time you’re coming in. Tell me what flight you’re going to be on, what time you’re going to be at the airport. When you get to the airport and you’re there and you’re checking in at the counter, you let me know so when you’re coming through security, I’ll take care of the rest,” according to Fein's statement.
The following day the drug trafficker carried 1,500 pills through the Westchester County Airport while Jones was working security. Those pills were actually placebos.
"TSA officers are entrusted with the responsibility for screening air travelers and their baggage, and a lengthy prison term is appropriate for any federal employee who accepts a bribe and compromises important airport security procedures," Fein stated. "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 defendant and others who participated in this illegal scheme.”
The investigation, dubbed "Operation Blue Coast", involved assistance from various state, federal and local departments including the Connecticut State Police and the Bridgeport, Milford, Norwalk, Stamford and Westport Police Departments; the Drug Enforcement Administration in Florida and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, Fein said.