Federal officials have charged five men, one of them a current Delta Air Lines employee, with running a gun-smuggling operation aboard U.S. passenger jets. The weapons were placed inside the carry-on luggage of an accomplice as he flew from Atlanta, Ga. to N.Y.
Eugene Harvey, who has since been terminated, worked for Delta as a baggage handler/ramp agent in Concourse B at Atlanta. The arrest warrant, which was filed in the U.S. District Court located in the Northern District of Georgia, lists the charges against Harvey, 31, as entering the airport in violation of security rules and gun trafficking.
Mark Quentin Henry, 45, was previously arrested on Dec. 10 in N.Y. following an investigation conducted by the NYPD into ways that gun violence could be better controlled. The probe led police to a Brooklyn man selling guns, who it turned out was Henry’s contact in N.Y. In court documents filed by prosecutors, Henry is alleged to have had 18 handguns in a black backpack when he was arrested; seven of the guns were loaded. He allegedly told officers that the firearms as well as ammunition had been inside of a carry-on bag he had carried on board a flight from Atlanta to N.Y.
The affidavit says that when Henry was arrested, he was carrying a boarding pass for a Delta flight originating in Hartsfield-Jackson and flying to JFK International Airport in N.Y. Upon reviewing Delta’s flight records, investigators were able to determine that Henry had boarded the flight. His mother, who worked as a gate agent for Delta before her retirement, had allowed her son to use her “Buddy Pass” privileges in order to take the flight. Henry himself was an employee of Delta for three years before he was fired in 2010 for abusing his own “Buddy Pass.”
After his arrest, Henry confessed that this year alone, he had smuggled guns on board at least 17 passenger flights from Atlanta to New York City. Investigators performed a thorough search of Henry’s mobile phone, which directed them to Harvey. Because Harvey was an employee of Delta, he was able to gain access to boarding areas without having to go through screening by TSA agents. He used this advantage to pass the guns through security. Once past security, Harvey would give Henry the guns.
Prosecutors said on Tuesday that the gun-smuggling operation had been going on for no less than five years. Referring to the fact that guns were carried on board in carry-on luggage, Brooklyn prosecutor Kenneth Thompson called the scheme a terrorism threat. He urged the entire airline industry to stop allowing some of their workers to bypass security screening upon entering airports.
Harvey has been fired by the airline. A statement by Delta said that the airline is cooperating with the investigation, and that the airline is taking the allegations very seriously. Delta played a large part in building the case against Henry by notifying police whenever he boarded a flight.
The other two men were charged in Brooklyn. They remain unidentified, although the district attorney of Brooklyn is planning to hold a press conference on the case on Thursday. Henry is currently being held in jail without bail. His attorney, Terence Sweeney, says that Henry is “maintain[ing] his innocence.”
By Jennifer Pfalz
Photo by Caruba – License