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Baggage handlers at SFO arrested for allegedly stealing pot, reselling it

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Two United Airlines baggage handlers have now been arrested by federal agents for allegedly stealing pot from checked baggage at SFO, then reselling it.

The arrest comes at the same time international law enforcement agencies are warning about a big increase in pot smuggling through California airports.

According to federal court documents, the two baggage handlers are accused of running a ring of airline employees who would bust into passenger's bags.

FBI agents accuse Joel Lamont Dunn of being the ring leader and Adrian Webb of being his right hand man.

The criminal complaint filed earlier this month only names Lamont and Webb, but mentions other employees.

NBC Bay Area reached out to United Airlines for comment on their employees’ charges but has not heard back. 

According to court documents, agents first picked up the trail of Dunn and Webb when they reported being robbed at gunpoint at an employee parking lot at SFO in June of 2021.

Agents started scouring security cameras and noticed the two were hauling trash bags to their cars.

Agents eventually made contact with another employee, who turned into their informant, and described to them how the operation worked.

Then last October, Dunn and Webb were stopped leaving the Terminal G garage with two large boxes and a garbage bag which contained about 30 pounds of pot in vacuum sealed packages.

NBC Bay Area Aviation Analyst Mike McCarran says the baggage handling areas at SFO are usually pretty secure.

Employees have to go through background checks and other measures to get clearance to be there.        

“You can find people who pass the background checks but still aren't honest. And this is apparently what has happened,” he said. “But even if that happens, there are backups in the system, there are cameras, and other ways, so they can monitor what's going on, and I think that's how they eventually caught up with these people.”

These arrests come as law enforcement agents in the United Kingdom are stepping up their scrutiny of California flights bound for London -- specifically flights originating from SFO and LAX.

The commander of the National Crime Agency Heathrow Branch issued a public warning which reads, “I’m making a direct appeal to anyone considering getting involved in transporting drugs to the U.K. think very carefully about the consequences."

More than 25 passengers arriving there from California have been arrested or convicted for drug possession of marijuana since the start of the year.  

That includes Southern California resident Akintude Akinwande who told U.K. officials he was instructed to pick up a couple bags in Burbank. From Burbank, he traveled to San Francisco International then flew to London-Heathrow.

As he continued on to Belfast-Ireland, local authorities moved in and made their arrest. Authorities found more than 70 pounds of marijuana in his luggage.

Authorities say legally-grown pot in California is very valuable in the U.K. but it's still illegal there -- especially in large amounts.

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