HOUSTON (AP) – Two U.S. air marshals face federal drug charges after being accused of using their positions to smuggle narcotics through airport security and onto planes for transport, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Shawn Ray Nguyen, 38, and Burlie L. Sholar III, 32, both from Houston, were set to make their first court appearance on Monday.
Both men were arrested on Thursday after an informant had delivered 15 kilograms of cocaine and $15,000 to Nguyen’s Houston home.
“We expect and demand that our law enforcement officials will themselves abide by the laws that they are sworn to uphold,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle. “The abuse of the badge will not be tolerated.”
Authorities first began investigating Nguyen in late November after receiving a tip from an informant that he was involved in selling drugs.
According to the criminal complaint in the case, Nguyen smuggled two envelopes containing drug money and fraudulent government documents past airport security in late December.
Nguyen then discussed with the informant smuggling large loads of cocaine and bringing in others to help, according to the complaint.
Authorities said Nguyen recruited Sholar and the two planned on smuggling 15 kilograms of cocaine aboard a plane bound for Las Vegas in exchange for $67,500.
The informant delivered the drugs and $15,000 in “up front money” to Nguyen’s home Thursday morning. Nguyen and Sholar were arrested later that afternoon as they left the house. Authorities said they found on Sholar $5,000 of the money that had been delivered by the informant and also found the cocaine in Nguyen’s home.
Both men face anywhere from 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine if convicted of federal charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.
Thousands of air marshals, who fly undercover on airliners, were rushed into service after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Though the exact number of air marshals is classified, it is estimated they cover a small percentage of flights.