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SFO United staff accused of stealing marijuana from checked bags

A plane hovers above an airport runway.
A United Airlines Boeing 777 takes off from San Francisco International Airport. | Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images | Source: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto/Getty Images

A group of United Airlines employees stole marijuana from checked luggage at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) for years, according to federal prosecutors. The Justice Department charged two baggage handlers on June 9 with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance for their role in the alleged scheme.

The employees, Joel Lamont Dunn and Adrian Webb, allegedly enlisted at least three other airport workers to help them snatch the cannabis, load it into 15-20 gallon trash bags and then put it in their personal vehicles, according to court filings.

The attorneys for Dunn and Webb did not reply to requests for comment by publication time.

READ MORE: SFO Luggage Thefts Almost Doubled: How To Protect Yourself

Passengers have snacks at the Harvey Milk Terminal in San Francisco International Airport on Nov. 22, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Prosecutors say the scheme dates back to at least 2020, when Dunn first approached another airline employee to join the operation, court filings say. That person later became a confidential source for law enforcement. Dunn allegedly paid the confidential source $2,000 each shift for their help, adding up to $10,000 per week.

Dunn was the operation's leader, and Webb was his “right-hand man,” prosecutors allege.

On June 8, 2021, cameras captured Dunn, Webb and other employees moving black trash bags out of the secure area of the airport, according to prosecutors. Later that day, Dunn and Webb were robbed at gunpoint in the SFO employee parking lot near their vehicles. The pair reported the robbery to law enforcement but did not mention marijuana to the police.

Law enforcement confronted two of Dunn and Webb’s unnamed accomplices in October 2022. The unnamed people were carrying vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana that weighed a total of 30 pounds, according to court filings.

Neither SFO nor United Airlines replied to requests for comment by publication time.

Noah Baustin can be reached at