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Flight Attendant Admits Using Work Status to Smuggle Fentanyl

As a woman was being screened on Oct. 4 in an imaging machines at San Diego International Airport, Transportation Security Administration officers noticed she was shaking. The machine detected a large mass in the area of her abdomen. Security officers, unable to determine what the mass was, sent her to a private screening room. The officers found that the large mass was an item wrapped around her abdomen. A drug-detection dog smelled something inside the item, the New York Times reports. The woman, Terese White, a 41-year-old Mesa Airlines flight attendant from Dallas, was taken into custody. She told the officers that the item they had found was “not what you think,” but rather a “mercury pack” her co-workers had given her for weight loss. The item was sampled and tested and turned out to be more than three pounds of fentanyl. White pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing fentanyl with the intent to distribute. She will be sentenced on March 24.

White admitted that she was trying to use her flight attendant privileges to avoid the robust security screening process in order to smuggle the fentanyl, which was taped to her abdomen. Shelly Howe, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, said, “Drug traffickers use air, land, and sea for personal gain, putting people’s lives in danger.” In her plea agreement, White admitted that she flew off-duty from the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to San Diego. After she arrived, she briefly left the airport’s secure area and returned later in the day for a scheduled flight to Boston. White tried to skip the regular security screening that passengers go through by using what is called the “known crew member queue.” However, she was randomly selected by TSA agents to go through regular security instead of the known member line, which led to the officers’ discovery that she was trying to smuggle drugs. “As part of her plea, White admitted that she attempted to use her status as a flight attendant, a position of trust, to facilitate the offense,” the U.S. Attorney said.

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