Terese White, 41, had intended to fly to Boston. Instead, he ended up with the police.
Last October, White was a Mesa Airlines flight attendant traveling from Dallas to San Diego. Between flights, he was leaving the SoCal airport and returning later that day to go from San Diego to Boston. As is customary for flight attendants, according to her plea agreement, White, a Dallas resident, “attempted to use the known crew queue” — a TSA security line that allows airline employees to pass with reduced screening.
“You have a KCM card. You scan the card, show your corporate ID and your driver’s license and you’re right through,” a former Mesa Airlines flight attendant told The Post. “But, sometimes, you get a ‘random’ one. That’s when you’re randomly selected to go through security that everyone else goes through.”
Unfortunately for White, this was the day chosen.
She now awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. White is just the latest flight attendant to use what the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California called “flight attendant privileges” as a drug-trafficking tool.
Like the titular character in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, crooked flight attendants find frequent travel and lax security a tempting combination. Paid off by drug dealers, some of them turn their privilege into a side hustle: acting as convenient mules to move contraband into the United States.
“It makes sense that this [smuggling by flight attendants] is routinely done,” attorney Dennis Ring, who represented convicted flight attendant Marsha Gay Reynolds, told The Post. “I would think that’s pretty common, but they don’t get caught often.”
Random viewings, he pointed out, “are an unusual phenomenon.”
The former flight attendant source recalled an industry colleague who “would go to Mexico and bring back Ritalin, Xanax and Adderall. He didn’t have recipes, he went around with boxes and sold [the drugs] here.”
As stated in the United States District Court complaint, White appeared reluctant to enter the “advanced imaging technology machine” — the full-body scanner that travelers enter for a low-energy X-ray. Once inside, according to the complaint, White began shaking.
She had good reason to be nervous. The machine quickly recognized something rigged to her midsection.
Taken to a private room for an examination, White removed what was described as “a large mass wrapped around her abdomen” – but insisted it was “not what you think”.
He told the projectors that the material was a “mercury pack” designed for weight loss. Los Angeles-based weight loss doctor Dr. Abe Malkin told The Post: “I’ve never heard of a ‘mercury pack’ for weight loss. As far as I know, it doesn’t exist.”
However, a test of the package revealed the truth: The complaint alleges that White was attempting to traffic and transport more than three kilograms of fentanyl.
According to a statement from the United States Attorney’s Office, White pleaded guilty last December and admitted that she “attempted to use her status as a flight attendant, a position of trust, to facilitate the offense.”
He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 24. Her attorney did not return calls for comment. Mesa Airlines had no comment.
The former flight attendant source attributed the revelation of White’s drug smuggling scheme to bad luck and bad planning. “He probably would have avoided the collision if it hadn’t been accidental. So if [the drug pack] was in her suitcase instead of attached to her body, I don’t know that they would have caught her.’
What she does know is that fellow flight attendants are picking on White because her crime has ruined something good for the rest of them.
“Everyone is kind of announced. Passing by KCM, [they’re] they are constantly randomizing now. One person ruins it for everyone else,” the source said. “Doing something like [what White did] he’s too f-king stupid .. and f-king stupid. You lose your job and the ability to see the world. I would never risk doing that.”
Although White went quietly for the random check, other airline employees are more brazen. That was the case, at least initially, with beauty queen turned JetBlue flight attendant Marsha Gay Reynolds. As The Post reported in 2016, when the then-34-year-old stopped for a screening at LAX in Los Angeles, she slipped on her Gucci heels, put down her bags and bolted.
Inside her luggage: 70 pounds of cocaine, with road worth $2 million.
Somehow, Reynolds reportedly managed to board a flight to New York and, upon landing, holed up at a Hilton hotel near JFK before turning herself in.
According to the United States Department of Justice, Reynolds was recruited into her misdeeds by a Jamaican named Gaston Brown. The Justice Department said the two had worked together to traffic illegal substances on six separate occasions. Last year, Brown was sentenced to 165 months in federal prison on charges that include two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine.
Last November, Delta flight attendant Marcelo Chaves and his friend were arrested while exiting a flight from Brazil to Miami. According to Miami News Channel 10, Robert Brisley of US Customs and Border Protection said they were arrested for “possession and transportation of narcotics.”
According to the report, the two allegedly transported drugs, including methamphetamine and ketamine, stored in plastic bottles. Chaves and his girlfriend admitted to “doing drugs in Brazil” but expressed no knowledge of the illegal goods in their suitcase. They are now facing drug trafficking charges.
Chaves’ attorney had no comment. A Delta spokesperson told The Post, “Delta is continuously cooperating with law enforcement and the off-duty flight attendant in question has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.”
Some flight attendants are more subtle than others. Rohan Myers, once a Caribbean Airlines flight attendant, had an elaborate setup under his pants. According to a criminal complaint filed in 2015, while on the job, he wore “spandex-style compression garments” under his clothes, which contained molded inserts that contained nearly seven kilograms of cocaine.
Like White, Myers ended up through an unexpected quest. Once he started “sweating profusely and answering questions with his head down,” customs officials became suspicious. Myers admitted he was promised $10,000 upon delivery of the drugs, by a man he called Bigga NFI.
Myers’ The lawyer and Caribbean Airlines did not comment.
“Flight attendants are easy pickings if you’re a would-be drug smuggler,” said Reynolds’ attorney, Dennis Ring. “Flight attendants are not wise with people. I suspect that half the time these people are not aware of the seriousness of what they are doing. People don’t even realize this is a federal offense. They don’t ask a lot of questions.”