August 29, 2006

Two air marshals sentenced in cocaine plot

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. air marshal was sentenced to
more than seven years in prison, and another to nine years for
a plot to smuggle cocaine by using their positions to clear
airport security, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Shawn Ray Nguyen, 38, and Burlie Sholar, 33, got 87 months
and 108 months, respectively, from U.S. District Judge Kenneth
Hoyt after they earlier pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess
and distribute cocaine and to bribery.

They were arrested in a February sting operation in which
they agreed to carry 15 kg (33 pounds) of cocaine on a flight
from Houston to Las Vegas, Nevada for $75,000.

Officials said they set up the sting after an informant
told them Nguyen, a former U.S. drug agent who lives in
Houston, had been involved in drug trafficking.

Nguyen got a lighter sentence than Sholar because of his
cooperation with authorities, said U.S. Attorney Don

They could have faced up to life in prison for the
conspiracy charge and 15 years for bribery.

The United States greatly increased airport security after
the September 11, 2001 attacks and puts air marshals on flights
to prevent hijackings.

Nguyen and Sholar were hired as air marshals in 2002.