Oakland baggage handlers accused in drug smuggling scheme
Three Southwest Airlines baggage handlers have been charged with passing large amounts of marijuana through secure areas of Oakland International Airport to drug couriers for distribution throughout the country.
In a federal indictment partially unsealed Monday, the three baggage handlers — identified as 32-year-old Kenneth Wayne Fleming of San Leandro, 34-year-old Keith Ramon Mayfield of Oakland and 28-year-old Michael Herb Videau of Oakland — face multiple drug charges, including conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
In addition, six alleged couriers and three alleged co-conspirators receiving money from the marijuana sales have also been charged in the case. They are accused of sending pot from Oakland to cities including New York; Atlanta; New Orleans; Nashville, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Anchorage, Alaska.
The baggage handlers would allegedly use their position to take backpacks and duffel bags full of marijuana through secure areas of the airport and pass them to departing passengers who had already been through airport security. They also used employee discounts to ship packages containing marijuana as cargo.
Investigators learned of the conspiracy when Kameron Kordero Eldridge Davis, 26, of Dublin, was arrested in Nashville while arriving on a flight from Oakland on May 16, 2013. When contacted by investigators, he was carrying 11 pounds of marijuana in a backpack.
Davis told the investigators he had made two or three prior trips to Nashville and taken as much as 30 pounds of marijuana there. He said he had received the pot from a contact at the Oakland airport.
The Nashville authorities alerted Oakland airport staff, and Alameda County sheriff’s deputies reviewed security footage, where they saw Fleming go through a security door at about the time Davis departed. He then contacted Davis via text message.
Investigators suspect Fleming passed bags of marijuana at least 11 times between April 30, 2013, and Feb. 27, 2014.
The airport began closer surveillance on airport staff, which brought Mayfield to their attention when they saw him meet with Major Alexander Session III on July 16, 2013.
Session boarded a flight to Phoenix with Ahshatae Marie Millhouse, en route to Little Rock. Upon his arrival in Phoenix, he was approached at the gate by airport personnel tipped off by the Oakland authorities.
A bag sitting by Session’s feet contained 14 bags of pot, six of which had “OG” written on them in permanent marker, and four that said “Purp.” Searching his phone, investigators found photos of him posing with large amounts of cash and marijuana, and with alleged co-conspirator Travon “Trigga Tray” Baker.
His contact in Little Rock, investigators learned, was 40-year-old Laticia Ann Morris, whose number Session had saved in his phone as “TBABY.” Once arrested and booked into jail, Session contacted Morris by calling another contact named “Juicebox,” who brought Morris into the conversation via three-way call.
Mayfield allegedly passed numerous bags of pot off to different couriers over the next several months. On Oct. 29, 2013, investigators allege Mayfield handed 10 pounds of pot to 34-year-old Ronnel Lamar Molton of Oakland. He traveled to New Orleans, where he told agents confronting him he had simply found the bag he was carrying and was not aware of its contents.
On Feb. 10, 2014, Mayfield passed a bag of pot to 41-year-old Clyde Barry Jamerson Jr. of Oakland, who was headed to Little Rock via Phoenix. Jamerson was expecting Session to pick him up in Little Rock, and officers found him outside in a Toyota.
After their arrest, Mayfield shut off his phone, according to the indictment.
But he found another way to transport the pot, as investigators learned on June 9, 2014, that he shipped marijuana by Southwest Cargo using an employee discount to Brandon Davillier in New Orleans. Davillier was arrested when he arrived to pick up the pot.
Mayfield allegedly made 22 shipments via Southwest Cargo between December 2013 and June 2014 to Raleigh, North Carolina; Little Rock; Philadelphia; New Orleans; Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; New York; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, according to investigators.
The operation appears to have been organized by 42-year-old Donald Ray Holland II, a man with a criminal history of trafficking cocaine. Agents searched the trash at Holland’s Discovery Bay home and found evidence linking him to the conspiracy.
Much of the marijuana came from a 600-plant operation that was raided by the FBI on Oct. 24, 2014, that surveillance agents saw Holland visiting, according to investigators.
A total of 14 people are charged in the indictment. Eleven defendants in the case are in custody and eight made initial court appearances in Oakland on Monday morning, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Three remain at large.
In a statement, Oakland International Airport officials credited the airport’s robust surveillance program and screening of workers with assisting federal investigators in uncovering the trafficking operation.
The airport “has been working closely with law enforcement from the outset of this investigation to root out, stop, and prevent criminal activity and we’re pleased to see the investigation concluding and the people involved held accountable,” the airport officials said.