A flight attendant pleaded guilty Thursday to drug trafficking charges after she was caught in October trying to smuggle three pounds of fentanyl taped to her abdomen through San Diego International Airport, federal prosecutors said.
Terese L. White, 41, of Dallas admitted to one count of possession with the intent to distribute fentanyl, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.
She is scheduled to be sentenced March 24 in federal court.
White’s defense attorney could not be reached immediately for comment Friday afternoon.
According to federal prosecutors, White admitted in her plea agreement that she attempted to “use her status as a flight attendant, a position of trust, to facilitate the offense.” She took a flight from Texas to San Diego on Oct. 4. Later that day, she returned to the airport for a flight to Boston.
Although she was off duty, White attempted to use the less-secure screening line reserved for crew members, but Transportation Security Administration officers told her she had been randomly selected to head through the regular passenger screening line, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
White then set off the metal detector in the passenger screening line, according to the document. TSA officers said she was “hesitant” and “shaking” as they took her to the security imaging machine.
The imaging machine alerted to an area on her abdomen.
Officers took White to a private room and found multiple packages containing the fentanyl taped to her body. She repeated to TSA that the packages were “not what you think” and that it was a “mercury pack” for weight loss, prosecutors said.
A canine unit alerted to the drugs and a sample was taken by officers that showed the substance tested positive for fentanyl, prosecutors said.
“Drug traffickers use air, land and sea for personal gain, putting people’s lives in danger,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Shelly Howe. “We will continue the great work with our partners to bring traffickers to justice and keep our community safe.”
The DEA announced earlier this week they had seized over 50.6 million fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills and more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder this year across the country.