BOND DENIED FOR AIR MARSHALS IN DRUG SCHEME
HOUSTON A judge denied bond Wednesday for two U.S. air marshals accused of smuggling narcotics onto planes, after hearing testimony alleging the men had dealt drugs including cocaine and had planned to rob a drug stash house.
Shawn Ray Nguyen, 38, and Burlie L. Sholar III, 32, both from Houston, had been granted bonds of $100,000 last month by a federal magistrate judge.
Prosecutors appealed and U.S. District Judge David Hittner agreed, saying both men were a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Stuart Maneth, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, testified that a third air marshal told authorities that Sholar had given him 25 tables of ecstasy.
That marshal also told authorities that Sholar had asked him how he and Nguyen could rob a drug stash house worth $3 million to $4 million inside it, Maneth said.
"He asked how many people he would need, what kind of tactics he would need to pull it off," Maneth said.
The third marshal also said Nguyen and Sholar received steroids from another air marshal, Maneth said.
Attorneys for both defendants, who have not been indicted and have not entered pleas, said they were disappointed with Hittner's decision, adding their clients' guilt or innocence should not have been the focus of the hearing.
"The government is getting too many bites at the apple until they get something they are happy with," said Kent Schaffer, Nguyen's attorney.
Sholar's attorney, George Parnham, said his client is a family man with a long history of law enforcement.
Parnham also said that Sholar's conversation with the third marshal about the stash house was simply about a hypothetical situation that was only reported to authorities after the marshal got in trouble for turning in fraudulent travel expense reports.
Schaffer said that Nguyen last year reported the third marshal to his supervisors for suspicion of being involved in illegal activity.
Nguyen and Sholar were arrested Feb. 9 after an informant delivered 15 kilograms of cocaine and $15,000 to Nguyen's Houston home. Authorities began investigating Nguyen in November after a tip from an informant that he was involved in selling drugs.
According to the criminal complaint, Nguyen smuggled two envelopes containing drug money and fraudulent government documents past airport security in December. Nguyen then discussed with the informant smuggling large loads of cocaine and bringing in others to help, according to the complaint.
Both men face anywhere from 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine if convicted of federal charges of conspiracy to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney **** McIntyre said both men could be prone to violence as Nguyen threatened the informant that helped authorities and Sholar "made a threat to Mr. Nguyen not to rat out fellow marshals."
Herald Democrat (TX)
Copyright: 2006 Herald Democrat