HOUSTON – Two U.S. air marshals pleaded guilty Monday to accepting money to smuggle cocaine on a flight to Las Vegas and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
The marshals admitted 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.
According to the criminal complaint, Nguyen, 32, smuggled two envelopes containing drug money and fraudulent government documents past airport security in December.
Nguyen then discussed with the informant smuggling large loads of cocaine and bringing in others to help, according to the complaint.
Authorities had said Nguyen recruited Sholar, 38, for the plan.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McIntyre said the investigation is continuing.
The men face 10 years to life in prison and a maximum fine of $4 million on the smuggling charge, and 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on a bribery charge.