A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer has been taken into custody after being accused of molesting a passenger under the guise of conducting a security search. The TSA officer was working at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and allegedly escorted a female traveler to an airport bathroom before sexually assaulting her.
Confirming the incident, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police spokesman Joe Pentangelo added that the TSA officer in question, identified as Maxie Oquendo, was arrested Thursday and has been charged with forcible touching, official misconduct, and unlawful imprisonment.
Oquendo, 40, was in full TSA garb when he approached the woman. He allegedly singled out 22-year-old female exchange student from Korea who was in an area where passengers do not need to be screened, reported the Examiner. However, Oquendo asked his victim to follow him to an upstairs bathroom under the pretense of a security search.
Prosecutors claim, he told her she needed to undergo a “secondary security screening.” Being in a TSA uniform, the woman did not suspect his intentions, shared Pentangelo.
“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. The victim said she knew what he was doing was wrong, but feared the agent.”
After convincing his victim, the TSA officer asked her lift her arms and then proceeded to molest her, reported Reuters. The complaint filed by the woman states Oquendo approached her and said, “Hey, ma’am, I need to scan your body and your luggage.” However, he chose to molest her, but left her bags untouched saying he does not need to check them. Thereafter, Oquendo took out his cellphone and pretended to give her an all-clear, but wasn’t really talking to anyone, claims the woman.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has sacked the officer, reported Fox News. Regulations mandate that TSA officers aren’t allowed to conduct a secondary pat-down anywhere else, apart from the designated checkpoint area. Moreover, a witness has to be mandatorily present when passengers of the opposite sex are physically searched by officers. Finally, such searches have to be conducted in a private screening area.
If the accusations are proven, the accused TSA officer faces up to a year’s jail-time. Incidentally, such incidents are quite common, but the searches have certainly helped bring down the instances wherein dangerous substances have ended up on a plane.
[Image Credit | Jeff Swensen / Getty Images]