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A Delta baggage handler was arrested Monday for allegedly smuggling firearms — some loaded — into the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, where he handed them off to an accomplice who flew to New York, federal law enforcement officials said.
The man, Eugene Harvey, was charged with "entering an airport area in violation of security requirements."
Harvey, also a ramp agent, allegedly shuttled the firearms into the airport — avoiding detection since airport workers don’t go through TSA screening, according to an affidavit filed by a senior federal air marshal, George Randell Taylor.
The 31-year-old Harvey came under suspicion as a result of a New York Police Department investigation into individuals trafficking stolen and straw-purchased firearms from Atlanta to the New York area.
Video footage from the Atlanta airport showed Harvey allegedly delivering the weapons to a man, Mark Quentin Henry, who would then carry them with him on flights to New York. Those guns were believed to have been handed over to a third co-conspirator who sold the weapons to a New York undercover officer, the affidavit says.
Henry was arrested on Dec. 10 and charged with felony crimes of criminal possession of weapons and criminal sale of firearms. He is accused of supplying 129 handguns of various makes and models, and two assault rifles — all obtained in Georgia — to the third co-conspirator from May 1 to Dec. 10. When Henry was arrested, he had on him 18 handguns — seven that were loaded, according to the affidavit.
Henry apparently did not have those 18 guns in his carry-on when he went through TSA screening. Based on a review of airport surveillance video and text messages the pair exchanged, Harvey entered a concourse bathroom with the weapons where Henry then picked them up.
Henry and Harvey allegedly seemed to have run the smuggling operation a few times since January, with airport footage catching them on tape. They also typically exchanged several text messages every time they did, the affidavit said.
Henry flew on Delta, using the “Buddy Pass” privileges of his mother, a retired gate agent for the airline. He was formerly a ramp agent/baggage handler for Delta as well, but was terminated in December 2010 for abusing the “Buddy Pass” system, according to the affidavit.
Delta Air Lines was “cooperating with authorities in this investigation,” the airline said in a statement. “We take seriously any activity that fails to uphold our strict commitment to the safety and security of our customers and employees."
It was unclear if Harvey had a lawyer or where he was being held after his arrest in Atlanta. Brooklyn's district attorney said he would release more information on the long-term firearms trafficking investigation on Tuesday.
NBC News' Jay Blackman contributed to this report.