LAWFUEL – The owner of a private prisoner transportation company was taken into custody this morning on federal charges of conspiracy and attempting to bring a handgun onto a commercial airplane at Los Angeles International Airport.
The arrest of the president of Court Services, Inc. highlights a Federal Bureau of Investigation airport security initiative that has led to four criminal cases being filed in recent months. The initiative seeks to identify and criminally prosecute individuals who threaten aircraft security by, among other things, bringing firearms onto airplanes.
Eric Scott Kindley, 39, of Moreno Valley, surrendered himself this morning to federal authorities. Kindley, the president of Riverside-based Court Services, and his employee, Gary Douglas Garratt, 54, of Mountain View, were indicted last Friday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. The indictment alleges that Kindley instructed Garratt to transport a prisoner from Phoenix to Honolulu. When advised by the airline that two armed law enforcement officers were needed to transport a prisoner on a flight of more than four hours, Kindley instructed Garratt to drive the prisoner to LAX and to fly from there. On March 15, 2007, Garratt and another Court Services employee went to LAX with the prisoner and were again advised that two armed law enforcement officers were needed to transfer the prisoner. That evening, Kindley gave Garratt a 9mm handgun that was not registered to either Kindley or Garratt. The following morning, Garratt attempted to board the aircraft with the handgun. Garratt is not a sworn law enforcement officer, and he had not completed the training required for law enforcement officers who fly armed.
Kindley is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles. Garratt was initially charged last year, and he was arrested in the Bay Area in late November. Garratt has agreed to appear in court again next Tuesday, at which time both he and Kindley are expected to be arraigned on the indictment. If convicted of the two charges in the indictment, both men would face statutory maximum sentences of 20 years in federal prison.
In another case indicted last Friday, a woman from Panorama City was charged with violating the false information and hoaxes statute. Susan Monica Kriss, 23, was named in a one-count indictment that accuses her of making a bogus hijacking report. On August 30, 2007, Kriss allegedly made a phone call to the Department of Airports Police Dispatch Center at LAX and reported that a flight destined for Egypt the next day was going to be hijacked. Kriss indicated that an individual would hijack the plane and that it had something to do with “Al Qaeda.” The purported “hijacker” had had a personal relationship with Kriss and was traveling to Egypt to get married.
Kriss is currently in state custody facing stalking charges. Her next appearance in Los Angeles Superior Court is February 20. A federal arrest warrant for Kriss has been issued, but it is not known when she will be turned over to federal authorities. If convicted, Kriss faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The third and fourth cases announced today also involve an attempt to bring a firearm onto an airplane. Charles Aaron Smith, 38, of Camarillo, was charged on December 21 for attempting to bring a gun onto an airplane while claiming to be a retired law enforcement officer. According to court documents, on January 7, 2007, Smith arrived at LAX to board a flight to Atlanta. Smith was stopped at the TSA checkpoint when the X-ray showed a handgun in his carry-on bag. Smith identified himself as a retired police officer from Lawler County, Iowa and presented a fake “retired police officer” identification card that purported to be law enforcement credentials that would allow Smith to carry a concealed weapon. In fact, Smith was never a law enforcement officer for Lawler County, and the credentials were provided to him by a friend. When asked about the fake law enforcement credentials, Smith called the person who made the bogus credentials, who then lied to airport officials by telling them that Smith had worked as a police officer for Lawler County.
Smith has signed a plea agreement and is scheduled to appear in United States District Court on February 22 to enter his guilty plea. The charge of attempting to carry a firearm onto a commercial airplane carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The man who made the bogus credential for Smith – Ricky Gene Boyd, 52, of Redlands – pleaded guilty to federal charges of transporting a false identification document on November 5, 2007. At that time, Boyd admitted making the fake document and lying to airport officials when Smith attempted to board the plane at LAX.
Boyd is scheduled to be sentenced on February 25, at which time he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
“It should be common sense that private citizens cannot bring firearms onto airplanes or call in fake threats to airports,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “Security at our airports and in the air is a top priority for law enforcement, who should not have to contend with armed civilians or be distracted by bogus threats.”
Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, stated: “These cases demonstrate the commitment of the FBI to ensure that all threats, both real and fabricated, to our airports and our airline passengers are vigorously investigated so that the public is not endangered.”
Indictments contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The investigations in these cases were conducted by the FBI.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Richard Y. Lee
National Security Section