Palm Beach, FL 4/21/2012 1:10:00 AM
News / Law

Former TSA Officer Pleads Guilty in Narcotics Distribution Scheme

Ex Transportation Security Administration officer based at Palm Beach International Airport, pleads guilty toone count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess oxycodone

Jonathan Best, also known as “JB,” 30, formerly a Transportation Security Administration officer based at Palm Beach International Airport, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Mark R. Kravitz in New Haven to one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone.  BEST accepted cash in exchange for facilitating the transportation of illegal narcotics through airport security without detection.

“This defendant received cash payments to position himself at airport security while large quantities of oxycodone pills were smuggled through, and he also traveled from Florida to Connecticut to help this narcotics trafficking enterprise launder illegal proceeds,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein.  “He breached his oath of public office and the serious responsibilities entrusted to him.  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.”

This matter stems from “Operation Blue Coast,” an investigation headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force into the large-scale trafficking of oxycodone pills from Florida to Connecticut.  The investigation revealed that an individual regularly purchased oxycodone from suppliers in Florida, transported the oxycodone to Connecticut by commercial airline or automobile, and sold the pills to various Connecticut-based narcotics traffickers.  The narcotics trafficker traveled from Florida to Connecticut several times a week carrying up to 8,000 oxycodone pills per trip.  He then used drivers to transport him to and from narcotics transactions during which he would sell all of the pills he transported from Florida.  After exchanging low-denomination currency for larger notes, he transported the proceeds of his oxycodone sales from Connecticut to Florida, either by having a courier drive the money or by using commercial airline flights. According to court documents and statements made in court, BEST, while employed as a Transportation Security Agency officer at Palm Beach International Airport (“PBI”) in West Palm Beach, Fla., accepted cash payments from the narcotics 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.  BEST told the narcotics trafficker how to dress and how he should act if confronted by airport security.  BEST also recruited fellow PBI TSA officer Christopher Allen into this scheme.

On May 6, 2011, the narcotics trafficker, who by this time was cooperating with law enforcement, paid BEST $1,500.  On May 18, 2011, BEST allowed the trafficker to pass through PBI security with 2,000 oxycodone pills that BEST believed were intended for distribution in Connecticut.

On June 13, 2011, the trafficker paid BEST $500.  On June 27, 2011, BEST allowed the trafficker and an undercover law enforcement officer, each of whom were carrying 4,000 oxycodone pills, to pass through PBI security.  After passing through security, the undercover officer met BEST in an airport bathroom and gave him $500.

On August 3, 2011, the trafficker and undercover officer each paid BEST $500.  The next day, BEST again allowed them to pass safely through PBI security while they possessed thousands of oxycodone pills.
In September 2011, BEST agreed to travel to Connecticut to help the narcotics trafficker launder drug proceeds and to transport laundered funds back to Florida.  BEST was arrested in Connecticut on September 12, 2011.

As disclosed in court, the evidence in this case includes recorded conversations among BEST, the cooperating narcotics trafficker and the undercover law enforcement officer.

Judge Kravitz has scheduled sentencing for July 12, 2012, at which time BEST faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.

On April 16, 2012, Christopher Allen pleaded guilty to one count of extortion under color of right and one count of receipt of a bribe by a public official, and admitted that he accepted a total of $2,000 from the narcotics trafficker.  He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Kravitz on July 5, 2012.

Twenty individuals have been charged as a result of this investigation.  As to the defendants who are awaiting trial, charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.