By Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A former Transportation Security Administration officer was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison Monday for taking bribes to allow drugs to be smuggled through her screening station at the Los Angeles International Airport.

U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow chided Joy White, 29, of Compton, for abusing her position of trust as a TSA screener when she looked the other way as drugs, including kilograms of cocaine, got onto planes, City News Service reported. The judge sentenced her to 5 years and 10 months in prison.

White pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to aid in the possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. She was one of seven former or current screeners indicted in April 2012 in the scheme to smuggle drugs through X-ray checkpoints and onto planes.

Defense attorney Joel Thvedt argued for a three-year term and said White, a mother of two, was suffering from postpartum depression and was in desperate financial straits at the time. White sobbed as she asked the judge for “leniency” and said her decision to participate in the scheme “was very stupid.”

The judge called White’s culpability more serious than that of the others because her role was “at the heart of the offense.” The judge said White had no limits on the amount or type of drugs or how often smuggling occurred.

The indictment detailed five times when the TSA employees took payments of up to $2,400 to allow suitcases of drugs to pass through X-ray machines while they looked the other way.

Three other defendants were sentenced to between 18 months and 7 ½ years in prison. Three others are awaiting sentencing.

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