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Former Houston airport employee sentenced to 9 years in prison for heroin smuggling

HOUSTON — A former employee at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to possessing heroin with intent to distribute, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated this case, in conjunction with the Houston Police Department Narcotics Division, the Transportation Security Administration's Office of Law Enforcement, and the Houston Airport System.

Rolin Eli Escober, 50, of Humble, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore to 108 months in federal prison. Escober pleaded guilty to the charges Feb. 4.

Escober was charged, along with Elidia Molina, 34, of Houston, with using their status as airport employees to circumvent airport security measures and to smuggle more than 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) of heroin and 13 kilograms (28.7 pounds) of sham heroin on Oct. 19, 2012.

"We cannot allow those entrusted with special access to our airports to violate that trust and put the public at risk," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "The defendants in this case created a security vulnerability that was neutralized by various airport stakeholders working together toward our shared goal of maintaining the integrity of our transportation system."

Escober and Molina were employees of Express Jet and DAL Global Services, respectively. Court records indicate they conspired together to abuse their positions as airport employees. With their knowledge of the airport, they circumvented airport security and smuggled items in exchange for pre-negotiated sums of cash from an undercover HSI special agent who they each believed to be a narcotics trafficker.

Escober was arrested after successfully smuggling heroin around security and returning it to the waiting undercover agents near the boarding gate. Escober will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined ion the near future.

Molina also pleaded guilty and is set for sentencing July 26 before U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller. She was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McIntyre, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.