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Six people, including current and former Delta baggage handlers, have been arrested as part of a ring smuggling guns and ammunition on planes from Atlanta to New York, in an investigation that revealed a “devastating breach of security,” officials said Tuesday.
Four men in the group were charged in two separate indictments for allegedly conspiring to sell 153 firearms that were mostly bought in Georgia and destined for the streets of Brooklyn, from May to December 2014, the King’s County District Attorney’s office said in a statement.
One of the men in the group was employed as a Delta bag handler who smuggled weapons — some loaded —into the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, where he handed them off to an accomplice, Mark Quentin Henry, who flew to New York, federal law enforcement officials said.
The bag handler, Eugene Harvey, 31, didn’t have to go through TSA screening as an airport worker – facilitating his smuggling in the weapons. Harvey was arrested in Georgia and charged with "entering an airport area in violation of security requirements."
Henry and Harvey did the gun exchange at the airport 17 times, the district attorney’s office said.
Henry used to work as a baggage handler Delta as well but was terminated in December 2010 for abusing the "Buddy Pass" system, according to a federal affidavit.
"In this age of terrorism, it is simply unthinkable that anyone would breach the security of our nation's airports to smuggle guns and ammunition, including assault weapons, on commercial airliners and jeopardize countless lives all to make money,” King’s County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement. “To make matters worse, these guns were intended to hit the streets of Brooklyn, where they could have been used to shoot and kill our residents and police officers.”
The 153 weapons — ranging from compact AR-15 and AK-47 assault weapons to 9mm handguns to Glock pistols — were ultimately sold to undercover police in New York.
The four others charged in the ring are: Tiffany Lane, of Jonesboro, Georgia; Ernest Leneau and Adrian Alleyne, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Grayling Smith, who has residences in Brooklyn and Snellville, Georgia.
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."