ORLANDO, Fla. -- Passengers on a commercial flight from Florida to Puerto Rico were in little danger despite more than a dozen guns being on board, because at least two federal air marshals were also on the plane, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman said yesterday.
TSA spokesman Christopher White declined to address the security breach or whether the marshals knew that guns were there.
Two baggage handlers used their employee uniforms and airport identification cards to enter restricted areas, bypass screeners with a bag containing drugs and the guns , and board the
An anonymous tip led to the investigation, said Carlos Baixauli of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms , and Explosives.
Thomas Anthony Munoz, 22, was arrested in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when he got off the plane. Inside a duffel bag he was carrying, authorities found 13 handguns, an assault rifle, and eight bags of marijuana, Baixauli said.
Zabdiel J. Santiago Balaguer, 22, who had been questioned by security screeners Monday but was released after no guns or drugs were found, was arrested late Tuesday.
Both were charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possessing firearms during a drug trafficking offense, court documents said.
The court documents say Balaguer was a middle man who had delivered guns and drugs to Puerto Rico and offered to pay Munoz as much as $5,000 to make that delivery, court documents assert.
Balaguer remained in custody yesterday in Orange County. Public defender Stephen Langs said Balaguer would plead not guilty.
Munoz and Balaguer worked for Comair, a subsidiary of Delta based in Erlanger, Ky. Both passed federal background checks before their employment, Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said.