A JetBlue flight attendant who authorities say left behind 70 pounds (32 kilograms) of cocaine worth up to $3 million US after flinging off her heels and running from security at Los Angeles International Airport was arrested Wednesday in New York.
Marsha Gay Reynolds surrendered to federal authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport, though it wasn't immediately clear how she reached New York, federal officials said.
Reynolds, who is a resident of New York, was expected to be in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday, according to U.S. Attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek.
Transportation Security Administration officials asked Reynolds to step aside for a random security screening Friday, authorities said. Reynolds went to a secondary screening area but quickly dropped her bag, ditched a pair of Gucci heels and fled barefoot downward on an upward-moving escalator, Marshall McClain, president of the union representing LAX airport police officers, said Monday.
Reynolds was charged with cocaine possession with intent to distribute. It was unclear if she yet had an attorney.
Mrozek said prosecutors believe reports that Reynolds was a runner-up in Miss Jamaica World 2008. New York University lists a Marsha-Gay Reynolds as having been on the school's 2004 women's track and field team, though it wasn't immediately clear if that was the same Reynolds arrested Wednesday.
On Friday, Reynolds arrived at an LAX checkpoint in Terminal 4 wearing jeans, heels and a black suit jacket, carrying her "known crew member badge," according to an FBI affidavit in support of the charge against Reynolds. It wasn't immediately clear whether she was on duty at the time.
When Reynolds was chosen for a random security screening, TSA Officer Jamie Samuel said the flight attendant became nervous and began looking around before pulling out her cellphone and making a call, according to the affidavit.
Samuel reported that Reynolds was talking on the phone in a foreign language as she was being taken to a secondary screening area, the affidavit says.
Once in the secondary screening area, TSA Officer Charles James asked for her identification.
"At this time, Reynolds dropped her carry-on luggage, removed her shoes and began to run away," according to the affidavit.
James saw Reynolds run down an upward-moving escalator and out of the terminal, the affidavit says, adding that the officer didn't pursue her because her abandoned luggage was his main concern.
LAX police soon after found 11 packages of cocaine wrapped in green cellophane and labeled, "BIG Ranch" inside one of the bags Reynolds had left behind, the affidavit says.
The cocaine weighed just over 30 kilos. Wholesale, the drugs would be worth about $750,000 in Los Angeles, said Special Agent Timothy Massino, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
On the streets of Los Angeles, Massino said the retail value of the cocaine could be as high as $3 million.
Security threats from "insiders," including airline and airport employees and workers hired by contractors, have been a focus of the TSA, particularly after the December 2014 arrest of several Delta Air Lines baggage handlers. Prosecutors allege they smuggled guns, including an AK-47, from Atlanta to New York.
The TSA has said that full screening of all employees would cost too much. Instead, the agency has urged airports to increase random screenings of workers and to keep background checks up to date.
"We will pay particular attention to the insider threat," TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger told a Senate committee earlier this month.