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100-Plus N.Y. Airport Workers Arrested

Accusations involve lying while applying for security jobs, but no evidence of terror links.

November 20, 2002|From Reuters

NEW YORK — More than 100 New York airport workers with access to secure areas were arrested Tuesday and accused of faking documents to obtain jobs and lying about criminal records, in what officials said was one of the largest security sweeps at U.S. airports.

Law enforcement officials said at a news conference that up to 118 employees at John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia international airports lied while applying for security positions, but there was no evidence of larger crimes.

"There is no evidence to date that these individuals have connections to terrorist organizations or intended to engage in any acts of terrorism," Roslynn Mauskopf, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, told reporters.

"But these individuals represent a significant vulnerability to the security of our air transportation system," she said.

The arrests were made a day after the federal government said it had completed staffing U.S. airports with 44,000 passenger screeners, part of new security measures prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Officials said the FBI, police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and other agencies carried out the arrests.

The employees had access to aircraft parking and maintenance areas, the tarmac and ramp, cargo storage facilities and passenger and baggage screening areas.

Some workers failed to disclose convictions for armed robbery, assault, larceny, burglary, weapon and drug charges or allegedly used bogus immigration documents and Social Security numbers, officials said.

The authorities said one man used the Social Security number of a woman born 20 years ago in Puerto Rico, and another worker used an 8-year-old's Social Security number.

"Today's arrests represent a culmination of a nine-month investigation by federal, state and local agencies into the backgrounds of 40,000 individuals who work at [the airports] and have access to restricted, high-security areas," Queens District Atty. Richard Brown said.

The maximum penalty for misuse of a Social Security number or lying on a security employee application is five years' imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.

Last week, authorities announced the arrest of about 20 cleaners and security personnel at Newark Liberty International Airport on similar charges.

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