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Former Southwest Airlines Employee At Oakland Airport Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Marijuana

OAKLAND (AP) -- A former Southwest Airlines baggage handler pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland Wednesday to two charges in a scheme to smuggle large amounts of marijuana through Oakland International Airport.

Michael Videau, 29, of Oakland, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton to one count of distributing marijuana and one count of entering an airport in violation of security rules for the purpose of drug trafficking.

He will be sentenced by Hamilton on Nov. 9 and faces a maximum possible penalty of 15 years in prison.

Videau was one of 13 people indicted by a federal grand jury in Oakland on May 28, 2015, on charges of participating in a nationwide conspiracy to smuggle the drug through the Oakland airport to locations in at least 10 other states in 2013 and 2014.

The other defendants included two other baggage handlers, six couriers who allegedly carried suitcases of marijuana onto planes, and four other people who aided with packaging and selling the drug.

The indictment alleged the conspirators obtained the marijuana in Northern California and placed it in sealed packages in suitcases that the handlers would bring through the employee entrance to the airport, where the bags would not be screened.

The baggage handlers would then meet the couriers in the passenger terminal and give them the suitcases to carry onto their planes, according to the indictment.

The marijuana was sold to buyers in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and possibly other states, the indictment said.

U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch said that in his guilty plea, Videau admitted that he used his access to the airport eight times in 2013 to smuggle luggage containing kilograms of marijuana to outbound passengers who had already cleared the security checkpoint.

Seven other defendants have pleaded guilty to various charges and five of them have been sentenced. Charges remain pending against the others.

Videau is the only baggage handler to have pleaded guilty thus far.

Read Also: Oakland Airport Baggage Handlers Among 14 Charged In Marijuana Smuggling Conspiracy

Read Also: Oakland Marijuana Grow Houses Linked To Mexico Cartel; 15 Arrested In Raids

Federal prosecutors say Videau is free while awaiting trial on a $150,000 bond.

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