A plot by at least two current and former Delta Air Lines workers to smuggle guns onboard flights traveling between Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and New York City's John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia International airports was an "egregious breach" of American air traffic security, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said Tuesday.
AP Photo/Michael C. York
Former Delta employee Mark Henry, 45, who was fired in 2010 for abusing the airline's buddy pass system, received the guns from 31-year-old Eugene Harvey, a Delta luggage handler in Atlanta who has since been fired as a result of the investigation. According to a statement from the Brooklyn district attorney, once Henry cleared security, Henry met up with Harvey inside the airport and the two allegedly exchanged the guns for cash.
It's not clear what either of the two two men intended to do with the guns. The Brooklyn district attorney's office said that "instead of being used in crimes, these guns are now permanently out of commission."
Thompson said investigators believe Henry had been smuggling guns onto planes for at least five years while using employee companion passes and allegedly transferred 16 weapons — including four 9 mm pistols, a .380-caliber pistol and ammunition and magazines — on Dec. 10 alone. Throughout the entire scheme, investigators said, at least 153 guns were taken onboard those flights, the Associated Press reported.
"Together, those two individuals breached the security at the airport down in Atlanta. They breached the security to smuggle so many firearms, so many guns, on planes from Atlanta to New York City," Thompson said.
The Brooklyn district attorney estimated that between May 2014 and December 2014, Henry took guns on about 20 commercial airliner flights between the two cities, but wasn't discovered until Dec. 10.
That morning, the prosecutor said, Henry was caught on surveillance video boarding a flight from Atlanta to New York City. When he arrived at JFK, authorities followed him to his Brooklyn home where he was later arrested. Henry is being held without bond but maintains he is innocent, according to his lawyer, Terence Sweeney.
Harvey was arrested in Georgia and is being held on $25,000 bond.
"This investigation is deeply troubling, because not only these guns creating havoc on the streets of Brooklyn and throughout the country, but now this scheme poses a threat in terms of terrorism," Thompson said. "If they could put guns on the planes this time they could have easily put a bomb on one of those planes."
He said his office has been working with federal partners in Atlanta throughout the probe.
Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said the airline "take[s] seriously any activity that fails to uphold our strict commitment to the safety and security of our customers and employees."
Hartsfield-Jackson, one of the busiest airports in the world and Delta's hub, called safety and security its "highest priority," according to airport spokesman Reese McCranie. He said employees are required to pass criminal history record checks, security threat assessments and security training before having access to secured areas.
"In light of these recent events, we are reviewing the security plan and will make the appropriate changes to prevent future incidents of this nature," McCranie said.
The Transportation Security Administration, which screens passengers upon their arrival into airports, said the agency is closely partnering with law enforcement and will use its findings from the investigation to improve its current procedures.
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