A former Transportation Security Administration officer has pleaded guilty to federal extortion and bribery charges, admitting she accepted cash to help move drugs and drug money through the Westchester County Airport without detection.
Brigitte Jones, 49, of the Bronx, entered the plea before United States District Judge Mark R. Kravitz in New Haven, Thursday.
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 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 he wasn't stopped by other TSA agents. Two meetings between Jones and the trafficker occurred at unspecified locations in Greenwich, according to officials.
The operation was unveiled during an investigation headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. Twenty people face criminal charges stemming from the investigation, Fein announced. A former Westchester County Police officer and former Florida State Trooper have already pleaded guilty in the case.
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 is not named in Fein's statement.
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 Jones believed to be placebos through the Westchester County Airport while Jones was working security. Those pills were actually placebos.
“Instead of stopping him, she violated her oath of office, compromised important airport security procedures and assisted a drug trafficking enterprise," Fein stated.
"The Justice Department has zero tolerance for 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 defendant and others who participated in this illegal scheme.”
Jones pleaded guilty to one count of extortion under color of right, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison, and one count of receipt of a bribe by a public official, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Judge Kravitz is scheduled to sentence Jones on July 25, 2012.
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.
The U.S. Marshals Service and the Greenwich, Monroe, Danbury and Waterbury Police Departments also helped with the investigation, Fein said.
Assistant United States Attorneys Rahul Kale and Tracy Lee Dayton prosecuted the case.