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Contraband
04/11/2011

Airport baggage handler sentenced to 5 years in prison for drug smuggling

Former baggage handler attempted to retrieve bag he thought contained drugs

PHILADELPHIA - An airline baggage handler was sentenced Thursday to 60 months in prison for his role in attempting to import drugs aboard a U.S. Airways flight from Jamaica. The case was investigated U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Crayton Reynolds, 40, of Philadelphia, and his co-defendant Phillip Mark Sharpe, 40, had worked together as baggage handlers for U.S. Airways at the Philadelphia International Airport. On Aug. 6, 2009, the two were attempting to retrieve a bag, presumably stashed aboard the airplane and containing five kilograms (11 pounds) of cocaine. The bag, in fact, contained only "sham" cocaine and no real drugs. At the time, co-defendant Sharpe was no longer a U.S. Airways employee.

Reynolds pleaded guilty to distributing five kilograms of cocaine and attempting to import five kilograms or more of cocaine. He also pleaded guilty to a second charge of attempting to import about 450 grams of cocaine on Oct. 31, 2008. The cocaine was hidden in soda cans and was a "test load" from Jamaica. The cocaine in that incident was intercepted by federal agents in Philadelphia after the flight landed.

"In coordination with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we successfully dismantled an organization that tried to exploit commercial aircraft to smuggle narcotics into the United States via Philadelphia International Airport," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Philadelphia. "HSI has and will continue to utilize its broad authorities to target those individuals that pose direct threats to our communities."

In addition to the prison term, Reynolds was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

Sharpe was sentenced on Dec. 29, 2010 to 96 months in prison for his role in the conspiracy, and for possessing a small amount of cocaine base, and a firearm at the time of his arrest.