A pair of United Airlines workers are facing legal turbulence after getting busted for stealing marijuana from passengers’ checked luggage.
According to various media reports, the two employees––Joel Lamont Dunn and Adrian Webb––worked as ramp cargo agents for United at San Francisco International Airport.
It was there that the two allegedly operated a scheme involving other workers who were paid good money to steal the contraband from the luggage.
The Los Angeles Times, citing a criminal complaint from the FBI, reports that Dunn and Webb “were charged on June 9 with conspiring to distribute a controlled substance.”
“Starting in 2020, Dunn and Webb oversaw an operation where other workers were paid $2,000 or more in cash each shift—or up to $10,000 a week—to steal large quantities of marijuana from checked luggage,” the Times reports.
The San Francisco Standard, citing prosecutors in the case, that one of the airline workers approached by Dunn to join the scheme subsequently became a confidential source for law enforcement officials.
Things began to unravel for Dunn and Webb in June of 2021, when they were “robbed at gunpoint in the [San Francisco International] employee parking lot near their vehicles,” according to the San Francisco Standard.
While Dunn and Webb reported the robbery to law enforcement, they did not mention the stolen marijuana.
The Los Angeles Times reports: “Video surveillance footage from before and after the robbery showed the two men and other employees carrying 15- to 20-gallon black trash bags out of the secure area of the airport, the FBI complaint says. The video also shows Webb carrying a black trash bag, walking through the parking garage, heading toward his vehicle. Subsequent video footage from October 2022 showed the two men engaged in similar activity, taking bags of unknown contents from the secured area of the airport to their personal vehicles, according to the FBI. Contacted by law enforcement, one of the men initially denied that the contents belong to them but later recanted. A search warrant revealed that a black trash bag and two boxes contained multiple vacuumed sealed bags of what lab testing confirmed was approximately 30 pounds of marijuana, the FBI said. At least five people were involved in the operation, according to the complaint, but so far only Dunn and Webb have been charged.”
As more states legalized recreational cannabis use, restrictions on traveling with pot have also been relaxed. The Transportation Security Administration says that its “screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers,” adding that its officers “do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs, but if any illegal substance is discovered during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”
Because airports are locally operated, officers generally defer to their local laws. In other words: if pot is legal, you’re probably good to fly with it. But travelers should be wary of the laws at their intended destination. Some airports, like O’Hare International in Chicago, have installed “amnesty boxes” for travelers to ditch their weed before flying.
“We’re not encouraging people to bring cannabis through the airports at all,” Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Maggie Huynh said in 2020, after the boxes were installed at O’Hare. “But if for some reason you have it on you, we have those amnesty boxes out there so that you can dispose of it prior to getting on the airplane.”