Two United Airlines cargo agents have been accused of stealing massive hauls of weed from checked luggage and reselling it on the black market.
The baggage handlers, Joel Lamont Dunn and Adrian Webb, were charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance at the US District Court of Northern California on June 9th. The Justice Department alleges that the two men regularly stole vast quantities of cannabis from passengers' luggage while working regular shifts at the San Francisco International Airport.
Charging documents identify Dunn as the conspiracy’s mastermind and Webb as his “right-hand man.” The two reportedly enlisted three or more other employees to help them with their plans over the course of three years. The workers would reportedly identify luggage that contained contraband cannabis, swipe the bud from the baggage, and then offload it into 20 gallon trash bags. The stolen bud was then resold on the black market for maximum profit.
The operation didn't stay secret for long. In June 2021, thieves robbed Dunn and Webb at gunpoint in the airport employee parking lot and stole some weed that the agents had just stolen from passengers. The cargo agents reported the robbery to the cops, but they didn't mention the weed, of course. Then, in October 2022, the FBI nabbed two unnamed co-conspirators who were attempting to bring 30 pounds of vacuum-sealed bud out of the airport.
One of the other cargo agents involved in the scheme eventually ratted out his co-conspirators to the FBI. The unnamed informant told the feds that Dunn originally approached him with the idea in 2020. The informant said Dunn paid them $2,000 a shift for helping to steal the weed, and would cough up even more for big hauls. The scheme was so lucrative that the informant was soon raking in up to $10,000 a week.
Airport security footage also showed Dunn, Webb, and the other conspirators regularly moving large black trash bags out of the secure area of the airport and loading them into their personal vehicles. After enough evidence mounted up, the feds moved in and arrested the two agents for their role in the conspiracy. Dunn was released on $75,000 bail, and Webb's bail was set at $50,000. A trial date has not yet been set.
The fact that the alleged conspirators were able to make so much bank off their scheme highlights the sheer quantity of weed that airline passengers are regularly attempting to travel with. Legal Cali weed fetches a hefty price in US states that haven't legalized weed yet, and even in some states that have. In New York City, many of the illegal pot shops that have sprung up in the past several years are proudly selling legally-packaged Golden State bud.
A lot of this smuggled weed is also being flown out of the country, though. In the first three months of 2023, UK cops busted more than two dozen people for brazenly attempting to fly right into Heathrow Airport with 50 to 100 pounds of weed in their checked luggage. Authorities believe that drug smugglers are recruiting financially desperate people online and paying them handsomely to bring weed into the country.
It's even possible that some of these would-be smugglers escaped arrest because Dunn and Webb stole their contraband before cops had a chance to catch them in the act.