Former airport baggage handler pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in the scheme of the nationwide drug ring to pass security for smuggling cocaine through LAX.
Antonio H. Botello, 24, was the last defendant of three former airport baggage handler in the federal case to plead guilty to participating in the drug ring scheme to help couriers smuggle narcotics through Los Angeles International Airport aboard commercial flights for delivery to customers on the East Coast. Los Angeles Daily News reported.
Botello was arrested in February 2017 on suspicion of smuggling cocaine by federal agents investigating the use of employee credentials to avoid airport security.
The U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. warned Botello, after accepting his plea, “not to make a mistake and try to run” who is free on bond, before the June 29, 2018, sentencing date.
“I am looking at a young man who got in way too deep,” the judge said.
Antonio Botello, 24, Adrian Ponce, 29, and Alberto Gutierrez, 28, all three from South Gate were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs and to distribute drugs, a felony carrying a federal prison term up to 40 years.
The case stems from the seizure of more than 2 pounds of cocaine from Gutierrez on December 16, 2015, in a Terminal 3 restroom at the airport, where he was trying to pass the cocaine to a man planning to fly to New York on a JetBlue flight.
Ponce, who was waiting for his co-conspirator Gutierrez in the car outside of the terminal, was interviewed with agents the next day and admitted that they took part in similar transactions on multiple occasions, according to prosecutors. Ponce pleaded guilty to the drugs conspiracy charge last month.
Alberto Gutierrez pleaded guilty last week before the Judge Birotte Jr. in federal court in downtown Los Angeles. Antonio Botello is expected to get no more than six years in federal prison, according to prosecutors.