HOUSTON (AP) - Two U.S. air marshals pleaded guilty to accepting money to smuggle cocaine on a flight to Las Vegas and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
The marshals admitted Monday they accepted $15,000 to use their positions as air marshals to bypass airport security and smuggle 15 pounds of cocaine.
Shawn Ray Nguyen's attorney, Kent Schaffer, said his client pleaded guilty because "he felt that the best way to ... demonstrate his repentance about his conduct was to take a guilty plea as early as possible."
George Parnham, an attorney for Burlie Sholar III, said the plea was the best alternative. "We want to save ourselves as much of his future as we can," he said.
Homeland Security spokesman David Adams said that Sholar and Nguyen remained on indefinite suspension without pay.
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Two former federal air marshals that were previously convicted of drug and bribery charges were sentenced to substantial prison terms.
The Houston men are accused of drug trafficking and are dangerous flight risks a judge ruled.
Shawn Ray Nguyen, 38, and Burlie L. Sholar III, 32, both of Houston, were arrested Thursday after an informant delivered 33 pounds of cocaine and $15,000 in "up front money" to Nguyen's Houston home.
They could have faced 10 years to life in prison and fines of $4 million on the smuggling charge and 15 years in prison and $250,000 fines on the bribery charge.