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Texas-Based Flight Attendant Admits Trying to Smuggle Fentanyl from San Diego to Boston

people walking at an airport

A scene from the San Diego International Airport (screenshot via CBS 8 San Diego)

A flight attendant from Dallas, Texas, has admitted to attempting to smuggle fentanyl taped to her abdomen through the San Diego International Airport.

Terese L. White was not on duty when she tried to use her status as a flight crew member to bypass regular security screenings in San Diego for a flight to Boston on Oct. 4, according to her plea agreement.

The 41-year-old was selected for regular screening while doing so, and Transportation Security Administration officers “found that White had concealed packages taped to her abdomen that contained more than three pounds of fentanyl,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.

She had flown to San Diego from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport earlier that day.

Her criminal complaint, filed just two days later, indicates that White need to undergo additional screening after setting off the alarm.

“While proceeding through normal security procedures, White alarmed the Walk-Through Metal Detector,” the complaint states. “Subsequently, White was sent through the Advanced Imaging Technology (‘AIT’) which generated an alarm on her abdomen area. Transportation Security Officers (‘TSO’) noted that WHITE initially appeared hesitant to enter the AIT and then was shaking when she was standing still inside of the AIT.”

After White removed “a large mass that was wrapped around her abdomen,” authorities examined it and a narcotic detection dog sniffed it, according to the complaint.

Authorities say that White tried to persuade them the item was “not what you think,” adding that “one of her co-workers gave her a ‘mercury pack’ to wear for weight loss.”

She admitted in her plea agreement to trying to use her status as a flight attendant, considered a position of trust, to commit the crime.

“Drug traffickers use air, land and sea for personal gain, putting people’s lives in danger,” Drug Enforcement Adminstration Special Agent in Charge Shelly Howe said in the release. “We will continue the great work with our partners to bring traffickers to justice and keep our community safe.”

White’s plea deal was struck through a fast-track case resolution program authorized by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman in San Diego.

The 15-page document says White also is pleading guilty to two elements of the crime: knowingly possessing fentanyl or some other federally controlled substance and possessing the fentanyl with the intent to deliver it to another person.

White faces a maximum 20 years in prison and $1 million fine, with probation of three years to life.

She likely will face much less time under that under her plea agreement, with prosecutors calculating a tentative base offensive level of 25, which under U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines brings a standard range of 57 to 71 months in prison for someone with no criminal history. But prosecutors said in the plea deal that they cannot finalize the offense level until a lab conducts a chemical analysis of the fentanyl White had at the airport.

White is scheduled to be sentenced March 24 before U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo in San Diego.

(Image: screenshot via CBS 8 San Diego)

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A graduate of the University of Oregon, Meghann worked at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, and the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Idaho, before moving to California in 2013 to work at the Orange County Register. She spent four years as a litigation reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and one year as a California-based editor and reporter for and associated publications such as The National Law Journal and New York Law Journal before joining Law & Crime News. Meghann has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Bloomberg Law, ABA Journal, The Forward, Los Angeles Business Journal and the Laguna Beach Independent. Her Twitter coverage of federal court hearings in a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles placed 1st in the Los Angeles Press Club's Southern California Journalism Awards for Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Journalist in 2021. An article she freelanced for Los Angeles Times Community News about a debate among federal judges regarding the safety of jury trials during COVID also placed 1st in the Orange County Press Club Awards for Best Pandemic News Story in 2021.