Airline employee charged with smuggling attempt

An AirTran Airlines employee has been accused of using his airport security clearance to smuggle drugs, cash and weapons past TSA checkpoints.

According to federal prosecutors, authorities learned that Rasondo Maurice Norris, of Stone Mountain, was acting as a mule, carrying contraband into the airport by bypassing security lines.

An undercover U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agent approached Norris, 29, and offered him upwards on $600 to ferry unauthorized materials around TSA agents checking carry-0n and personal baggage of passengers going to flight gates, authorities said.

First, Norris was presented with what he believed to be a backpack filed with five kilograms of cocaine, court officials said. A second time, the undercover agent paid Norris to ferry what represented $500,000 in drug money past security.

On the final occasion, Norris was given a bag containing what he believed to be a sub-machine gun along with an ammunition magazine and a silencer. After bypassing security each time, he was paid between $600 to $800 by agents each time.

He was subsequently arrested.

“Security screening at our airports is vital to keeping citizens safe,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “By using his credentials to bypass security with backpacks of contraband, the defendant allowed what he believed to be drugs and weapons on board commercial flights. Public safety is a responsibility we take seriously, and our office will continue to prosecute those who are endangering our citizens.”

Norris faces life in prison plus 40 years as a maximum sentence for the two federal counts of attempting to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute for which he has been charged. A $15 million fine is also possible, federal authorities said.

He is scheduled to go before a federal magistrate judge on June 12 at 1:30 p.m., for a bond hearing.