updated 2/13/2006 11:03:18 PM ET 2006-02-14T04:03:18

Two U.S. air marshals face federal drug charges accusing them of using their positions to smuggle narcotics through airport security and onto planes for transport, federal prosecutors said.

“We expect and demand that our law enforcement officials will themselves abide by the laws that they are sworn to uphold,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle.

Shawn Ray Nguyen, 38, and Burlie L. Sholar III, 32, were arrested Feb. 9 after an informant delivered 33 pounds of cocaine and $15,000 in “up front money” to Nguyen’s Houston home, authorities said. They were ordered to remain in federal custody until a bond hearing Thursday.

According to a criminal complaint, authorities began investigating Nguyen in November after receiving a tip that he was involved in selling drugs.

Authorities said Nguyen recruited Sholar and the two planned to smuggle 33 pounds of cocaine aboard a plane bound for Las Vegas in exchange for $67,500.

Both men face 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine if convicted.

Kent Schaffer, Nguyen’s attorney, questioned the motivation of the informant. “This is going to be a very complicated case,” he said.

Sholar had not yet hired an attorney on Monday.

The exact number of air marshals is classified but thousands were rushed into service after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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