An off-duty flight attendant stands accused of trying to smuggle around 3.33 pounds of fentanyl onto a plane at San Diego International Airport last month after trying to bypass routine TSA security screening procedures by using a dedicated lane for crew members.
Terese Lee White faces a federal charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute following her arrest on October 4. White works as a flight attendant for Mesa Airlines, a regional carrier that operates flights on behalf of American Eagle and United Express.
A complaint filed in a San Diego district court alleges that White attempted to pass through an expedited TSA screening lane reserved just for crew members at San Diego Airport at around 1:25 pm on October 4, but she was randomly pulled out of the line for additional checks.
An affidavit submitted to the court says White ‘alarmed’ the x-ray arch and was then asked to stand in a more advanced detection system that can pinpoint potential ‘threats’ on the body.
It is alleged that White was hesitant to enter the so-called ‘advanced imaging technology’ machine and was physically shaking as the scan was taken. The machine highlighted a potential threat around White’s abdomen, and she was taken to a private screening room where she removed a large mass that had been wrapped around her belly.
Local law enforcement, along with special agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency and a canine response unit from the California Highway Patrol were called to the scene, at which point the complaint alleges White said the mass was a ‘mercury pack’ that a fellow flight attendant had given her to aid with weight loss.
The canine unit, however, alerted to the mass and a drug field test indicated that the substance was fentanyl.
According to the Bedrock Recovery Center, the amount of fentanyl discovered on White could have a street value of more than $226,000. White told the officers that she was flying on a non-revenue ticket to Boston.
White was initially arrested on suspicion of breaking a state health and safety law and taken to a local detention center where she was subsequently charged with the federal crime of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
The case number is 22 MJ03661 in the US District Court for the Southern District of California.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.