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February 18, 2006
Drug Ring Within Air Marshals?

The New York TImes reports that federal air marshals have been charged with drug smuggling, and one of those indicted has indicated that a much wider drug ring operates within FAMS:

Testimony on Thursday at the arraignment of two federal air marshals charged with using their credentials to engage in a cocaine smuggling conspiracy suggested that the case might involve other marshals as well.

Stuart Maneth, an agent with the inspector general's office of the Homeland Security Department, testified that one of the suspects had told the authorities that after their arrest last week, he was warned by his co-defendant against "giving up other F.A.M.'s."

The accused — Shawn R. Nguyen, 38, and Burlie L. Sholar III, 32 — were taken into custody after an informant delivered to Mr. Nguyen's home in Houston what the authorities described as 33 pounds of cocaine, to be smuggled to Las Vegas, and $15,000 as partial payment for the job. ...

Mr. Nguyen, a former agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told investigators that once in custody, Mr. Sholar warned him that his life "wasn't worth anything" if he disclosed information about other air marshals, Mr. Maneth testified on Thursday.

This comes as a shock. FAMS has almost-complete run of all airports and apparently can bypass the security checks put in place to secure them. It makes sense that drug smugglers would attempt to penetrate FAMS, given the heightened post-9/11 security procedures that has increased the amount of searches of passengers, luggage, and packages flying. It's difficult to believe they could have been this successful.

The two defendants appear to be at odds with one another now that they have been caught, with Nguyen claiming that Sholar has threatened to kill him if he talks. Hopefully, if more marshals have succumbed to the temptation provided by their "golden badge", as Nguyen called it, the race for both of them to cut a deal will expose them. These agents besmirch the reputation of the vast majority of FAMS agents who risk their lives for our safety every day. Perhaps FAMS should consider instituting some security screening for its agents that will remove the temptation for corruption that might exist now.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 18, 2006 9:53 AM

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