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Atlanta airport customs agent charged in drug trafficking case

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Customs officer used badge to bypass security, indictment alleges
  • Thirteen others also charged in case
  • Investigation led to large-scale drug seizure in Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- A federal customs officer based at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was arrested and charged along with 13 others with drug trafficking in one of the largest ecstasy pill seizures in the country, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates announced Thursday.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent was charged with taking payoffs from undercover agents to smuggle guns and drug money, allegedly using his badge to bypass security screenings. Five search warrants were executed in the last 24 hours at different locations in metro Atlanta as part of the investigation code-named "Operation Rude Beast."

"That investigation led to unraveling a large scale ecstasy trafficking organization and the seizure of over $2.8 million worth of ecstasy from a house in Chamblee (Georgia) -- one of the largest seizures in the country," Yates said.

Devon Samuels, 45, a customs officer of Stockbridge, Georgia, was charged with conspiring to launder drug money, bulk cash smuggling and attempting to bring weapons onto an aircraft, according to one of three federal grand jury indictments, which were unsealed Thursday.

One indictment states that on November 3, an undercover officer posing as a money launderer gave Samuels approximately $22,000 in money supposedly from the sale of drugs. Samuels, with help from an associate, unlawfully used his badge to bypass security and avoid security screening to smuggle the money through the Atlanta airport to Jamaica, the document states. Once in Jamaica, Samuels delivered the money to a Jamaican undercover officer, posing as an international drug trafficker, according to the indictment.

Samuels also is charged with accepting $50,000 in alleged drug money on November 19 from another undercover officer. Samuels and his wife, Keisha Jones, 30, traveled from Atlanta to Jamaica, where they delivered the money to Jamaican undercover police officers, the indictment states. Samuels again used his customs officer badge to bypass security and avoid screening.

Jones faces similar charges.

Samuels also is charged with accepting five firearms and drug money on November 30. The indictment alleges that he used access to government computers to determine whether he or his associates were under federal investigation.

"One corrupt officer is too many," said Robert Gomez, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.