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Workers at LAX Probed

September 27, 2006|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Police Chief William J. Bratton said Tuesday that an investigation has identified several workers at Los Angeles International Airport who have criminal histories, but a federal official said the only probe he is aware of found five security employees who had warrants for non-disqualifying misdemeanors.

The Los Angeles Police Department's Major Crimes Division assisted the FBI and Transportation Security Administration in an investigation, which has been underway at least since June, Bratton said in a written report to the Police Commission on Tuesday.

"This sensitive investigation is ongoing and has identified numerous LAX employees with warrants as well as those with disqualifying criminal histories," Bratton wrote.

Commission President John Mack voiced concern after receiving the report.

"That's very disturbing to say the least," Mack said. "Because we are in a period with terrorist threats being as serious as they are we need to have people work there who do not have criminal backgrounds."

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said the only investigation of LAX workers he knows about was by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security. That inquiry found that five TSA employees had warrants for non-disqualifying misdemeanors.

None of the employees lost their jobs, Melendez said.

Nancy Castles, a spokeswoman for LAX, said that in addition to the inspector general's review, the city routinely screens LAX workers for criminal histories and sometimes employees are found to have problem pasts.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said her agency does conduct periodic checks into the backgrounds of airport workers. The last check in July resulted in no arrests or disqualifications of employees, but about a dozen LAX workers have been arrested or terminated over the years based on the discovery of warrants and criminal backgrounds.

Castles said there is no cause for concern.

About 42,000 people work at LAX for airlines, caterers, the TSA and other employers, and city and federal authorities conduct detailed background checks of all new workers, routinely disqualifying job applicants who have convictions for any of 22 felonies, Castles said.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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