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Philadelphia Airport Employee Nabbed Attempting to Smuggle $62,000 On Flight By Using Insider to Bypass TSA

Philadelphia Airport Employee Nabbed Attempting to Smuggle $62,000 On Flight By Using Insider to Bypass TSA

a group of airplanes at an airport

An airport catering employee has pleaded guilty to trying to smuggle $62,000 in cash on a flight from Philadelphia International Airport to Montego Bay, Jamiaca by using an insider to bypass the TSA security checkpoint.

Hugh James, 52, was sentenced to six months imprisonment on Tuesday, along with two years of supervised release and has been ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 after pleading guilty to attempting to board an international flight with undeclared currency.

James has also been made to forfeit the $62,000 in undeclared cash, which was found by Customs and Border Protection officers hidden inside Colgate toothpaste boxes.

According to recently released court documents, James passed through the TSA checkpoint at Philadelphia Airport with just $3,200 in cash in his wallet, but when he was later stopped by CBP officers on the jetway just before boarding his flight, he was found to have tens of thousands of more dollars in his possession.

In total, CBP discovered $65,204 in James’ possession, including $42,000 in $100 bills hidden in the toothpaste boxes and a further $20,000 in cash sandwiched between two sealed Colgate boxes.

Prosecutors trawled through video surveillance footage at the airport and discovered that after passing through the TSA checkpoint, James proceeded to a food court where he briefly went out of view of the security camera.

When he reappeared, James was carrying a a blue strapped backpack containing the cash which he didn’t have before.

James was stopped before boarding a flight on October 9, 2020, but wasn’t interviewed on video until April 27, 2021, when he admitted that he hadn’t taken the backpack through the TSA checkpoint but had retrieved the bag from a fellow airport employee who hadn’t been TSA screened.

He had previously admitted to being aware that any cash above $10,000 must be declared to CBP before leaving the country.

The former airline catering employee reached a plea deal late last year and was sentenced to one count of evading airport security and one count of failure to declare currency on Tuesday.

View Comments (4)
  • “Customs and Border Protection officers hidden inside Colgate toothpaste boxes.”
    I think a little proofreading would have helped

  • What was the probable cause for the search and suspension previously in following the suspect? Just curious, got the entry to airport, 3200 dollars, what triggered CBP to follow the individual past the initial point of entry to the place where he was to recover the backpack from the fellow airline worker/accomplice?

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