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The TSA has a long list of items you can’t bring aboard a plane, such as sharp objects, explosives and firearms, but apparently, a Delta baggage handler and a former co-worker at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) didn’t get the last part of this message. According to an affidavit released December 19, 2014, both men have been arrested by federal agents on allegations of smuggling 129 handguns of various makes and models and two assault rifles between May 1-December 10, 2014 aboard jets bound for New York City.

Guns aren't allowed past airport security or onto airplanes, but two men at ATL - one a Delta baggage handler - managed it several times.
Guns aren’t allowed past airport security or onto planes, but two men – one a Delta baggage handler at ATL – managed it several times.

Eugene Harvey and accomplice Mark Quentin Henry were arrested on December 10, 2014 as part of an Atlanta/New York weapons trafficking investigation. At the time, Harvey was employed by Delta as a baggage handler at ATL, where airport workers (as at many airports) are exempt from TSA screening. Henry, himself a former baggage handler and ramp agent for the airline, was fired in 2010 for attempting to use a buddy pass benefit belonging to his mother, a retired Delta gate agent, to arrange for a flight between ATL and New York’s JFK. Henry continued to abuse this benefit throughout the alleged smuggling scheme in order to fly round-trip between ATL and JFK.

Authorities have confirmed these two men’s conspiracy to smuggle firearms past airport security and onto an airplane by examining their cellphone-text and security records, as well as airport surveillance video. Investigators said that December 10 surveillance video showed Henry wearing a backpack and walking away from airport security toward a B concourse gate at roughly the same time he started texting Harvey, who that day was working in the baggage transfer room at ATL, a designated secure area. While Henry waited at a gate, Harvey entered a nearby restroom; Henry followed him in soon after, emerging a minute later carrying his same backpack.

At the time of his December 10 post-flight arrest in New York, Henry was carrying this backpack, which upon inspection turned out to contain a smaller bag of 18 handguns (seven of them loaded) and corresponding ammunition. Henry told investigators that this backpack had been his carry-on, though it was clear to investigators that the firearms-laden pack wouldn’t have made it past TSA screening at ATL.

Prior to Harvey and Henry’s arrests, investigators had discovered that Henry sold smuggled guns to co-conspirators in New York, one of whom sold one of these guns to an undercover agent. In order to strengthen their weapons-trafficking case, agents needed to catch Harvey and Henry in the act of smuggling—and fortunately, it appears as though they have. Meanwhile, Delta and ATL authorities are looking into this case in great detail.

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