BUFFALO, N.Y. – A former federal security officer has admitted helping a man accused of running a drug ring evade security and smuggle money through the Buffalo Niagara Airport.
Minnetta Walker was arrested in March. She admitted Friday in federal court helping the man get around airport security scanners, The Buffalo News reported.
Walker, 43, had been suspended from her job as a behavioral detection officer for the Transportation Safety Administration.
Also charged was the man accused of running the drug operation, Derek Frank. According to police, the 30-year-old Frank regularly flew from Buffalo to Arizona to buy marijuana, which was mailed back to Buffalo and sold.
He has pleaded not guilty in federal court.
Walker also admitted Friday to warning two of Frank's associates that agents were tailing them.
As a behavioral detection officer, Walker was trained to observe and analyze human behavior and had unrestricted access to the airport and its security stations. Sometimes, she'd direct travelers she appeared to know, including Frank, away from security lines where body image scanners or pat-downs might detect large sums of cash, and escort them to their gates so they wouldn't be pulled aside for random inspections, authorities said. She'd also alert travelers to the presence of undercover law enforcement officers, authorities said.
Investigators stumbled upon her behavior while monitoring the movements and cellphone calls of suspected drug dealers beginning about a year ago, according to court documents.
Chief George Gast of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police confirmed his agency assisted federal investigators in a long-term investigation.
Walker was charged with conspiring to defraud the United States and evading security requirements. She faces up to five years in prison.
The charge against Frank carries a possible prison term of 20 years to life.
In a related case Thursday, a former employee of the Buffalo city clerk's office pleaded guilty to a felony, admitting that she made up a false birth certificate for Frank.