A head-scratching tale that departs LAX and lands at JFK.

By Melissa Locker
March 24, 2016
Woman walking with suitcase behind airplane
Credit: Getty Images

The latest wacky tale of travelers attempting to smuggle drugs onto airplanes concerns Marsha Gay Reynolds, a flight attendant who left nearly 70 pounds of cocaine—and her Gucci shoes—at an LAX security gate Friday evening. Yesterday, she was brought into custody.

While crew members typically breeze through security, they’re occasionally subjected to random screenings. When Reynolds, a JetBlue flight attendant, was pulled aside for one of these arbitrary searches at LAX's Terminal 4, she panicked.

According to the LA Times, as she was being escorted to a security station, she made a phone call in a foreign language, and bolted, tossing both her shoes as well as her luggage. She pushed her way through the terminal, even going down an upward-moving escalator to avoid capture.

The security guards didn't chase Reynolds, because they were concerned that her luggage contained something far worse than illicit cargo. Only after the bomb-sniffing dogs gave the all clear did they discover why she made a break for it—packed alongside clothing and condoms were 11 bricks of cocaine (not to be confused with the traveler who recently forgot his 10 bags of cocaine on an American Airlines flight). Wholesale, the drugs would be worth about $750,000 in Los Angeles, but on the streets they would be worth as much as $3 million, Special Agent Timothy Massino, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration told CBS Local.

In what could be described as a disappearing act—and a massive security failure—Reynolds traveled (and may have worked) on a JetBlue flight to New York City in order to elude authorities. Despite showing her “known crew member badge" at LAX, no one at TSA caught her name. She was on the lam for more than four full days before surrendering to Drug Enforcement Administration agents at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Reynolds was taken into custody in New York and charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, according to federal authorities. If convicted, she could face a minimum of 10 years in prison.

As reported by the Associated Press, Reynolds and her spokesperson are currently denying that she was fully aware of what was in her suitcase. Prosecutors, meanwhile, are suggesting that this was not Reynolds' first attempt at smuggling.

The incident has sparked conversations about whether flight crews and airport employees should be subject to the same security screening measures as passengers. "Employees should undergo the same screening to help decrease the opportunities for these employees to commit crimes and to help eliminate 'insider' or 'lone wolf' criminal activity," said Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association in the LA Times. "It is long overdue that both of these recommendations be implemented."