A TSA officer accused of molesting an airline passenger at LaGuardia Airport in New York has been arrested and charged. According to Reuters, Maxie Oquendo, 40, lured a 22-year-old air traveler to a bathroom where he touched her inappropriately. The report indicates that Oquendo was not working at the time of the incident, but wore his TSA uniform to the airport and tricked the woman into thinking she needed to be searched.
“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,” said spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Joe Pentangelo.
The TSA officer accused of molestation has been charged with forcible touching, official misconduct, and unlawful imprisonment.
According to CNN, the district attorney detailed what allegedly happened in a statement.
“Hey, ma’am, I need to scan your body and your luggage,” Maxie Oquendo told the woman. “[He] had her lift up her shirt and unzip her pants and touched her breasts and other areas of her body over and under her clothing,” read the statement in part. After the incident, Oquendo spoke into a cell phone saying, “She’s clear. She doesn’t have any weapons or knives.” He was likely pretending, however, not actually talking to anyone.
TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger confirmed that Oquendo had been fired.
“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,” said Neffenger in a statement.
The TSA officer accused of molesting the woman did not follow protocol.
“A secondary pat-down outside of a checkpoint area,” is prohibited by TSA. In addition, a witness is supposed to be present during a pat-down when there is a passenger of the opposite sex that needs to be further checked out. The TSA agent is permitted to do such a search in a “private screening area,” which is nearby to the airport checkpoint.
Evidently some passengers don’t realize that the airport has these rules in place, and just follow instructions, not thinking much of what could actually be going on. Some believe that some passengers are so nervous in the airport, that they do as instructed without thinking too much about whether or not it makes sense. This could be why the woman followed Oquendo’s lead, and went into the bathroom without questioning his actual intentions.
[Photo by John Moore / Getty Images News]