Published March 24, 2016
A JetBlue flight attendant who allegedly fled Los Angeles International Airport after being selected for security screening, leaving behind her Gucci shoes and luggage containing dozens of pounds of cocaine, was in custody Wednesday.
Federal officials said 31-year-old Marsha Reynolds, of Jamaica, N.Y., surrendered to DEA agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. She was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute.
Reynolds was expected to be in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday, according to U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek. Reynolds was charged with cocaine possession with intent to distribute, punishable by 10 years to life in prison. It was unclear if she had an attorney.
It was not immediately clear how Reynolds reached New York. She was last seen running barefoot up a down escalator in the Los Angeles airport terminal Friday evening.
According to court documents, Reynolds arrived at an LAX checkpoint in Terminal 4 wearing jeans, heels and a black suit jacket, carrying her "known crew member badge". It wasn't immediately clear whether she was actually on duty at the time.
When Reynolds was chosen for a random security screening, TSA Officer Jamie Samuel said the flight attendant became nervous and began looking around before pulling out her cellphone and making a call, according to the affidavit.
Samuel reported that Reynolds was talking on the phone in a foreign language as she was being taken to a secondary screening area, the affidavit says.
Once in the secondary screening area, TSA Officer Charles James asked for her identification.
"At this time, Reynolds dropped her carry-on luggage, removed her shoes and began to run away," according to the affidavit.
James saw Reynolds run down an upward-moving escalator and out of the terminal, the affidavit says, adding that the officer didn't pursue her because her abandoned luggage was his main concern.
LAX police soon after found 11 packages of cocaine wrapped in green cellophane and labeled, "BIG Ranch" inside one of the bags Reynolds had left behind, the affidavit says.
The cocaine weighed 68.49 pounds. Wholesale, the drugs would be worth about $750,000 in Los Angeles, said Special Agent Timothy Massino, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
On the streets of Los Angeles, Massino said the retail value of the cocaine could be as high as $3 million.
Mrozek said prosecutors believe reports that Reynolds was a runner-up in Miss Jamaica World 2008. New York University lists a Marsha-Gay Reynolds as having been on the school's 2004 women's track and field team, though it wasn't immediately clear if that was the same Reynolds arrested Wednesday.
JetBlue spokeswoman Sharon Jones said in a statement that the airline was cooperating with the investigation. She declined to comment further and did not respond to a question about how long Reynolds has worked for the airline.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said the nation's security "depends on every individual with security clearances to honor the trust placed in them."
"The defendant's conduct violated that trust and, in the process, exposed the public to a major narcotics transaction and the dangers inherent to such a transaction," she said.
Security threats from "insiders," including airline and airport employees and workers hired by contractors, have been a focus of the TSA, particularly after the December 2014 arrest of several Delta Air Lines baggage handlers. Prosecutors allege they smuggled guns, including an AK-47, from Atlanta to New York.
The TSA has said that full screening of all employees would cost too much. Instead, the agency has urged airports to increase random screenings of workers and to keep background checks up to date.
"We will pay particular attention to the insider threat," TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger told a Senate committee earlier this month.
Fox News Channel's Matt Dean and The Associated Press contributed to this report.