WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Twelve people, including six current and former Transportation Security Administration agents in Puerto Rico, have been charged with smuggling some 20 tons of cocaine into the continental United States between 1998 and 2016, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.


The TSA agents were paid to ensure suitcases each containing 8 kg to 12 kg (17.6 lb to 26.5 lb) of cocaine were able to pass through X-ray machines at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, according to a superseding indictment handed down on Feb. 8 by a grand jury in Puerto Rico, the department said in a statement.


If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison, it said.


(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh)