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Drug Dealer Calls DEA Airline Program “Big Brother”

A once-secret program pays airline employees for successful tips.

A convicted drug dealer claims that having his cash confiscated at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) was not only illegal, but plays into “Big Brother” government tactics. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Breland Barcel Lee is suing both the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and United Airlines, claiming that his Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizure was compromised by the arrangement.

Under the once-secret program, the DEA works with American carriers in order to identify “suspicious” flyers that could be involved in drug smuggling or cash laundering operations. The seized money is then split between the airline whistleblower, the DEA and local law enforcement agencies that work on task forces.

Lee claims that he was caught in the middle of one such tip when his carry-on luggage was taken by DEA agents in April 2016. He was flying on a one-way ticket aboard United connecting in ORD to Los Angeles when a gate agent flagged his ticket. After police questioned him about the contents, a drug sniffing dog was called to check the luggage. When the dog alerted for drugs, the bag was opened with a search warrant, resulting in the cash being found and seized.

However, Lee claims despite previous drug convictions, he was not involved in money laundering. Instead, he was using the money to move to California and initially denied having the money on his person. The lawsuit accuses the DEA and United of violating his right to privacy by flagging him as a suspicious flyer.

“They should have more evidence to stop somebody,” Lee told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They are hurting more innocent people than people who are doing illegal things.”

The DEA acknowledged the program in a statement to the newspaper, saying they “routinely work with personnel” from airlines to seize suspected drug assets. In total, the lawsuit claims the DEA has taken an estimated $5.5 million from 118 flyers across Chicago’s airports in 2015, each accused of being involved in illegal drug operations.

The lawsuit is not the first time a cash-for-tips program by the DEA has been called into question. In 2016, a Department of Justice probe scorned the DEA for “hiring” a Transportation Security Administration agent to seek out flyers traveling with large amounts of cash.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

Comments are Closed.
Snuggs May 24, 2017

I always get my facts and draw conclusions based on the comments of convicted felons.

grbauctions May 20, 2017

The Government is for sure abusing this. tons of stories can be found.