Flight attendant pleads guilty to smuggling fentanyl at San Diego airport

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A flight attendant has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges after she was caught trying to smuggle three pounds of fentanyl taped to her abdomen through San Diego International Airport (SAN).

According to the US Attorney’s Office (Southern District of California), Terese L. White, aged 41, flew to San Diego International Airport (SAN) from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) while off-duty on October 4, 2022. 

White had another flight to Boston scheduled later that same day, and attempted to bypass the regular security screening procedures by using the “Known Crew Member” queue. 

However, White was selected by Transport Security Administration (TSA) officers for the regular passenger screening process. During that screening process, officers found that White had concealed packages taped to her abdomen. The packages contained more than three pounds of fentanyl.

The New York Times reported that White, who worked for Mesa Airlines, first told officers that the item they had found was “not what you think,” but that it was a “mercury pack” that her colleagues had given her for weight loss.

White later admitted in her plea that she attempted to use her status as a flight attendant, a position of trust, to facilitate the offense.

“Drug traffickers use air, land and sea for personal gain, putting people’s lives in danger,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly Howe said. “We will continue the great work with our partners to bring traffickers to justice and keep our community safe.”

Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine, and one kilogram can potentially kill 500,000 people, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

According to the CDC, synthetic opioids (like fentanyl) are the primary driver of overdose deaths in the United States.

White is scheduled to be sentenced on March 24, 2023, and faces up to 20 years in prison. 

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