A TSA officer accused of molesting a passenger inside of a LaGuardia Airport bathroom in New York City has been arrested on charges of sexual abuse. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has since sacked the groping TSA screener.
Writes The Associated Press, via Fox News, on Aug. 28: “The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police spokesman Joe Pentangelo say TSA officer Maxie Oquendo was arrested Thursday. Prosecutors say Oquendo approached the woman Tuesday as she was coming off a flight from Salt Lake City. They say he told her she needed to undergo a ‘secondary security screening.’”
On August 25, Oquendo, 40, allegedly singled out a 22-year-old female exchange student from Korea who was in an area where passengers do not need to be screened. According to the complaint filed by the passenger, Oquendo led the woman, whose name was not released, into an upstairs bathroom under the pretense of a security search, where he proceeded to lift her shirt, grope her breasts, unzip her pants and place his hand into her underwear.
Oquendo, a Manhattan resident, was shortly thereafter arrested – while still on duty – and charged with unlawful imprisonment, official misconduct and sexual abuse. He remains behind bars this week.
“Supposedly he took her into another area using his official position, being in uniform, and she thought it was a part of his official duty,” Pentangelo said, adding that the victim said she knew what he was doing was wrong, and asked several times why a female TSA agent was not present, but that she feared the agent.
The complaint filed by the woman says Oquendo approached her and said, “Hey, ma’am, I need to scan your body and your luggage.” After fondling her and telling her that he does not need to check her bags, the victim says Oquendo took out his cell phone and said, “She’s clear. She doesn’t have any weapons or knives.” The woman said Oquendo was not actually talking to anyone.
TSA officers are not authorized to conduct “a secondary pat-down outside of a checkpoint area,” the statement said, according to CNN. “A witness must be present when passengers are patted down by officers of the opposite sex. Those searches must be conducted in a private screening area.”
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, who is overseeing the case, said: “The defendant is accused of an egregious abuse of his position as a government screener at LaGuardia Airport to sexually victimize a young woman. Such alleged conduct cannot, under any circumstances, go unpunished.”
TSA Administrator Peter V. Neffenger said Oquendo faces up to a year behind bars. “TSA holds its employees to the highest standards. As such, we expect our employees to conduct themselves with integrity, professionalism, and with respect for the public we serve,” Neffenger said.
“The vast majority of the TSA workforce serves with honor and integrity, and treats every passenger with dignity and respect. TSA is working in close partnership with the Port Authority Police Department in support of this investigation,” he added.
Adds CNN: “In April, two TSA screeners were fired after conspiring to grope attractive men at Denver International Airport…when a male TSA officer noticed a man he found attractive, he alerted a female TSA officer. The female officer would then tell the screening machine that a female passenger – not a male – was walking through. That information would trigger a machine to register an anomaly in the groin area.”
Under that fabrication, the male TSA officer would then lead the passenger to a private area and use his hands to grope the crotch of the passengers. The pair admitted to pulling off this deplorable scheme at least ten times. Both have since been fired.
Have you ever been mistreated by a TSA officer?