Two TSA officers sentenced in drug smuggling ring

A former TSA agent, who believed he was smuggling heroin for a powerful drug cartel through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport security, was sentenced to 11 years in prison Wednesday.

The sentencing of Richard C. Cook II follows a six-year sentence that his partner, Timothy G. Gregory, 26, was handed earlier this month for the same crimes.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates described the sentences as “significant,” and appropriately so to deter others.

“The defendants abused their positions as TSA officers to smuggle drugs through the world’s busiest airport,” Yates said. “The citizens of this district deserve better than Mr. Cook and Mr. Gregory – they deserve officers who obey the laws that they are entrusted to enforce.

Both Cook and Gregory got caught up in elaborate sting operations and never smuggled real drugs. But according to Yates’ office, beginning in January 2012, the two “misused their positions as officers with the Transportation Security Administration to smuggle what they believed to be illegal drugs through Atlanta’s airport security.”

On Jan. 11, 2012, Cook met with two undercover officers, who were posing as members of a drug cartel. The officers gave Cook three kilograms of fake heroin, and $3,500 in cash. After getting the package through airport security, Cook delivered the drugs to another undercover officer in exchange for $4,000.

He repeated it on Jan. 26, where he was once again paid $7,500 for his services. By February, Cook had resigned from the TSA, but he had recruited Gregory to assist with the drug smuggling operation, authorities say. He was even paid a $1,000 referral fee.

On Feb. 24, Gregory was paid $5,000 to smuggle five kilograms of fake cocaine. Authorities say Gregory also agreed to transport 10 kilograms of fake cocaine from Atlanta to Commerce.

Along with his 11 year sentence, U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell, hit Cook with a $16,000 fine. Gregory was fined $5,000.

“Let today’s sentencing demonstrate to the public that federal and local law enforcement agencies stand committed to eradicate corruption, particularly among the few who choose to tarnish their badge and oath of office,” said James E. Ward of the Department of Homeland Security.

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