Text messages help expose LAX marijuana smuggling ring
The son of a former Los Angeles fire chief was charged Monday with bribing a federal Transportation Security Administration officer at LAX to help him smuggle about 14 pounds of marijuana past security on nine separate trips.
Millage Peaks IV, 23, admitted to FBI agents that he and his associates made the trips with the aid of a TSA officer, whom they paid nearly $6,000 in bribes to avoid detection, according to an FBI affidavit.
Peaks and TSA Officer Dianne Perez were arrested on bribery charges Sunday after what the FBI said was his most recent attempt. A baggage handler smelled marijuana in the luggage and alerted authorities, who found 14 pounds of marijuana.
Text messages from cellphones Peaks turned over to the FBI show Peaks had sent a number of text messages to Perez. In a message dated Oct. 7, he wrote: “He made it coo. Thanx soo much. U have no clue how clutch u r. Without u none of this would b possible….Ill have ur 700 Monday maybe earlier.”
In another, dated Sept. 30, he wrote: “500$ tom night. Good looks.”
In interviews with authorities, Peaks offered a detailed explanation of the system devised by him and Perez to get drugs aboard planes.
On Sunday, he met Perez outside the terminal and checked in for his American Airlines flight to Boston. He then gave her the two pieces of checked luggage, which Perez took to a TSA screening room, according to an affidavit from federal investigators.
She returned three minutes later and waved, an indication that “everything is good,” he said. He also said that Perez taught him how to pack his bags in order to avoid detection.
-- Rick Rojas and Richard Winton
Photo: The Los Angeles International Airport entrance sign on Century Boulevard. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times