Two U.S. air marshals face federal drug charges accusing them of using their positions to smuggle narcotics through airport security and onto planes for transport, federal prosecutors said.
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, authorities said.
"We expect and demand that our law enforcement officials will themselves abide by the laws that they are sworn to uphold," said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle.
According to a criminal complaint, authorities began investigating Nguyen in November after receiving a tip that he was involved in selling drugs.
Authorities said Nguyen recruited Sholar and the two planned to smuggle 33 pounds of cocaine aboard a plane bound for Las Vegas in exchange for $67,500.
Both men face 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine if convicted.
The exact number of air marshals is classified but thousands were rushed into service after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
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The Houston men are accused of drug trafficking and are dangerous flight risks a judge ruled.
Two former federal air marshals that were previously convicted of drug and bribery charges were sentenced to substantial prison terms.
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.
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.