Former TSA officers sent to prison
5:00 pm, January 30th, 2013
A former officer with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta was sentenced today to serve 11 years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia announced.
U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell of the Northern District of Georgia sentenced Richard Cook II, 28, of Henry County for conspiring to and attempting to smuggle illegal drugs through airport security.
On Jan. 4, Cook’s co-defendant, Timothy Gregory, 26, of DeKalb County was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the illegal drug scheme, according to federal prosecutors.
“The defendants abused their positions as TSA officers to smuggle drugs through the world’s busiest airport,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in announcing the sentences. “The citizens of this district deserve better than Mr. Cook and Mr. Gregory – they deserve officers who obey the laws that they are entrusted to enforce. These significant prison sentences should serve as stinging reminders that corruption will not be tolerated.”
James E. Ward, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta field office of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General said today’s sentencing demonstrates “that federal and local law enforcement agencies stand committed to eradicate corruption, particularly among the few who choose to tarnish their badge and oath of office,” and “will continue to hold such shameless individuals accountable.”
Federal authorities began investigating Cook and Gregory more than a year ago after receiving credible information that Cook was willing to use his position as a TSA officer to smuggle contraband. In January 2012, Cook met with two undercover officers posing as drug cartel members who paid Cook $3,500 and gave him bogus drugs that they told him was heroin to smuggle through airport security, prosecutors said. Cook subsequently did so while wearing his TSA uniform and delivered the bogus drugs to an undercover officer inside the terminal who paid him an additional $4,000 in cash, prosecutors said.
Cook subsequently smuggled what he thought was illegal contraband through airport security a second time at the behest of undercover officers, who paid him another $7,500 in cash, prosecutors said.
Cook then recruited Gregory to assist in the smuggling operation, prosecutors said, and introduced him to the undercover officers in return for a $1,000 referral fee. Prosecutors said that Gregory subsequently smuggled drugs through an airport security checkpoint and delivered them to another undercover officer in the terminal.
Kenneth Glenn, who was one of Cook’s attorneys during the case but did not represent him at today’s sentencing, said that Cook “was a young man who had done a lot of things right. He had a security clearance and you can’t have a history of trouble to get one of those jobs.” But, he said, Cook “made some obvious mistakes and is paying a real harsh price for it. On the other hand, I was glad to see some leniency shown. There was certainly a potential for much greater time.”
Another of Cook’s attorneys, Sheila Arnum, could not be reached for comment. Gregory’s attorney, Thomas Hawker, declined comment.