Nearly two years from October 2, 2012, Philadelphia International Airport came to a grinding halt as a security incident was discovered on a Bermuda-bound US Airways aircraft. This security incident turned out to be a drug smuggling operation discovered by an astute airline employee, and investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
It was later discovered that Brian Wade used his position as a baggage handler at the airport to smuggle drugs on US Airways flights to Bermuda for more than 10 years.
Spotted by a US Airways employee Oct. 7, 2010, Wade, wearing his work uniform and off duty at the time, was observed placing items in the baggage hold of US Airways flight 1070. The incident garnered immediate live national media coverage that afternoon. As the incident was being investigated for possible ties to terrorism, HSI special agents assigned to the airport determined it was tied to an elaborate narcotics smuggling scheme between Philadelphia and Bermuda.
Wade was arrested and later pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute a total of 3,022 grams of marijuana. This was related to his efforts to send marijuana to Bermuda by hiding it in commercial aircraft. On October 2, 2012, Wade was sentenced in federal court to 36 months of probation and a $1,000 fine.
“This investigation disrupted and dismantled an internal conspiracy that was going on for years at the Philadelphia International Airport,” said John Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. “Keeping the flying public safe by stopping the flow of dangerous drugs, and bringing individuals engaged in international drug trafficking to justice is a high HSI priority.”
But that wasn’t the end of the investigation. What began in October 2010 continued for more than a year following Wade’s arrest when HSI’s Philadelphia Airport Investigations Group – working with an undercover agent posing as an associate of the corrupt airline worker – received 421 grams of heroin from a target of the HSI investigation. As part of the investigation, the heroin was replaced with “sham” narcotics and placed in a package that was sent to Bermuda concealed aboard a commercial aircraft.
HSI special agents determined that Wade had received the narcotics from unknown individuals who traveled to Philadelphia from New York on behalf of their conspirators in Bermuda. Wade received payment from his counterparts at the airport in Bermuda, who would place cash on the flight destined for Philadelphia. Once the aircraft arrived in Philadelphia, Wade would take the cash off in the same manner he smuggled the narcotics to Bermuda.
On June 1, 2011, HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) successfully dismantled this organization that was using Philadelphia International Airport to smuggle narcotics. Working around the clock, law enforcement officials identified corrupt airport and airline employees in the U.S. and Bermuda who utilized their positions to circumvent airport security and federal inspection procedures.
The resulting investigation led to the arrests in Bermuda of Lorenzo Lottimore, David Carroll and Lauren Marshall, current and former L.H. Wade International Airport employees. Another individual, Damian Hatherly, was also arrested. All four were charged with importation of narcotics. The drugs have a street value in Bermuda of almost $1 million. Subsequently, $90,000 in suspected drug proceeds was seized from a bank account utilized by Carroll.
On Sept. 10, 2012, just before the trial was due to start, Carroll pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import controlled narcotics, specifically cannabis and heroin, and agreed to forfeit $70,000 in Bermuda currency. Additionally, authorities in Bermuda dropped prosecution against Marshall.
On Sept. 25, 2012, a Bermuda Supreme Court jury convicted Lottimore and Hatherly of one count each of conspiracy to import controlled drugs. They both face a minimum of 12 years in prison.
HSI special agents noted that US Airways officials cooperated fully throughout the entire investigation.