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17th of January 2018

United States



Flight attendant charged with money transmission and airport security crimes

A New York man was arrested Monday following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York investigation.

Scott McKinney, a flight attendant, is charged with conspiracy to violate airport security requirements and operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business.

“As a Known Crewmember, McKinney allegedly took advantage of the security access allowed with his position by transmitting large sums of money across the country without a license,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI New York. “Those who choose to use their position’s security clearance at our airports to smuggle cash, narcotics, or any other unlawful good, pose a significant threat to our national security and our efforts are centered to shut down that vulnerability.”

“As alleged, Scott McKinney abused his privileges as an airline employee, misusing the Known Crewmember lane to smuggle hundreds of thousands of dollars through security, in furtherance of an illegal money transmitting business. Thanks to the dedicated investigative work of HSI, McKinney’s illegal money transmitting business has been grounded,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Joon H. Kim.

According to the complaint Between July and November 2017, McKinney, a flight attendant based in California, conspired with others to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and to violate airport security requirements. On several occasions, McKinney flew from California to New York to pick up packages containing $50,000 or more in cash at JFK Airport or other locations in New York City. McKinney then flew back to California with the cash. On some of these occasions, McKinney was on the ground at JFK Airport for two hours or less before flying back to California. At the time of these trips, McKinney did not have a money transmitting license in New York or California, and was not registered as a money transmitter with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. In a statement to HSI agents on or about Sept. 15, 2017, McKinney admitted that he was aware of the licensing requirement and lacked such a license.

To facilitate the operation of his illegal money transmitting business, McKinney used the Known Crewmember (“KCM”) lane to bypass regular airport security screening. The KCM lane allows approved airline crewmembers to pass through security more quickly and, typically, without having their carry-on luggage screened. On several occasions, McKinney wore his crewmember uniform and used the KCM security lane — even though he was not working on those occasions — to smuggle bulk cash through airport security.

For example, on Sept. 15, 2017, McKinney flew from Los Angeles, landed at JFK Airport not wearing his crewmember uniform, entered the terminal, changed into his uniform, and retrieved a package from a co-conspirator in the airport parking garage. McKinney then used the KCM lane to smuggle the package through security. HSI agents subsequently approached McKinney while he was waiting to board a return flight to Los Angeles. During a search of McKinney’s carry-on luggage, agents found the package that he had just received in the parking garage, which contained approximately $54,000 in cash. McKinney told the agents that, on several prior trips, he had transported bulk cash from New York to California and then given the cash to a co-conspirator at the airport in Los Angeles.

McKinney, 49, of San Diego, California, was arrested on December 18, 2017 in San Diego. McKinney is charged with one count of conspiracy to enter an aircraft or airport area in violation of security requirements and one count of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

This investigation is considered ongoing. This matter is being handled by the SDNY’s Narcotics Unit. The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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