Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Federal Air Marshals Allegedly Tried Smuggling Cocaine

Two federal air marshals were charged Monday with trying to smuggle cocaine by using their ability to skirt airport security.

The two men are among the corps of armed officers who fly undercover to protect flights against terrorists. Air marshals are not searched as they enter an airport.

Shawn Nguyen, 38, and Burlie Sholar, 32, both of Houston, are accused of making a deal to smuggle 33 pounds of cocaine past airport security in Houston and fly it to Las Vegas, according to an affidavit unsealed in a hearing in federal court in Houston.

The two men were dealing with an informant who agreed to pay them $4,500 per kilogram, or $67,500, said the affidavit filed by an agent for the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's office.

Nguyen was recorded demanding he be given the chance to set up bigger smuggling deals, according to the affidavit.

"I don't care what's in the (expletive) package," Nguyen purportedly said in a conversation Jan. 4. "Just tell me how much it is and what I'm getting in money."

Nguyen, who worked for five years as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent before joining the marshals in 2002, allegedly demanded a fee of $5,000 to $7,000 per kilogram of cocaine he transported.

"I ain't being greedy, I've done this (expletive) before," he told the informant, according to the affidavit.

Sholar had worked as a police officer in Los Angeles and for the U.S. Capitol police in Washington.

The two were arrested Thursday as they drove from Nguyen's home hours after the informant allegedly had delivered 15 kilograms of cocaine and $15,000 to Nguyen.

Air marshal spokesman David Adams said the investigation into the marshals was continuing. He declined further comment.

The marshals had dwindled to a force of several dozen when terrorists struck Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, the service has hired thousands of agents.

by Alan Levin


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