Airport employees accused of lying on their applications

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by By Doug Aronson, 13News Investigator

WVEC.com

Posted on June 6, 2002 at 5:51 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 30 at 3:36 PM

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) -- About 30 current and former workers at the Norfolk and Richmond airports were arrested Thursday by federal officials cracking down on airport security breaches.

The workers, employed in various jobs by the airports, airlines or other companies at the airports, allegedly gained access to secure areas of the airports by lying on their employment applications about their criminal records; were wanted on outstanding state warrants; or were in violation of Immigration and Naturalization Service requirements. They are not believed to be connected to terrorist activity, said Paul J. McNulty, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

But they are considered a safety threat because they falsified their applications, McNulty said. "To protect our homeland, we must make our airports safe and the public secure," McNulty said at a news conference. "We are painfully aware of the potential threats to airport security. On Sept. 11, five hijackers boarded a plane in Virginia, resulting in the deaths of 189 innocent people, including many members of our nation's armed services working at the Pentagon."

The roundup was part of the anti-terrorism Airport Security Initiative. The national effort to tighten airport security since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was previously announced by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

At Norfolk International Airport, McNulty said 20 people who worked there were arrested on federal charges Thursday. About half of those arrested were former employees. In addition, one person was arrested as a fugitive from state charges and one was detained for overstaying a visa.

At Richmond International, nine workers were arrested in a similar operation.

At Newport News-Williamsburg International, records were examined but no violations were found.

Federal authorities reviewed badge applications by employees at the airports: about 3,400 at the Norfolk airport, 199 at the Newport News airport and more than 4,800 at the Richmond airport. The badges gave employees access to secure areas of the airports.

Federal authorities reviewed badge applications by employees at the airports: about 3,400 at the Norfolk airport, 199 at the Newport News airport and more than 4,800 at the Richmond airport. The badges gave employees access to secure areas of the airports.

Twenty-one Norfolk airport workers were indicted on charges of lying about their criminal history. One of them also was charged with using a false Social Security number. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release. In addition, six other people were identified as fugitives from justice on state charges and three other people were identified for alleged immigration violation.

In Richmond, 11 people were indicted for allegedly lying about their criminal history. An additional two were identified as fugitives on state charges, and an additional five were accused of immigration violation.

Of the total of 48 people implicated on criminal or immigration charges in both cities, 17 remained at large Thursday afternoon.

Federal agents gathered early at the Norfolk airport for the local roundup, dubbed Operation Plane View, and started making arrests as employees arrived for work, said Wayne Shank, airport deputy executive director. Travelers did not notice anything unusual because the arrests took place in non-public areas, he said. "I don't call any of these folks hardened criminals," Shank said of those arrested. "But they falsified applications. That gives us pause for concern."

Similar operations at the Washington area's three airports led to the arrests in April of more than 140 workers who had access to airplanes, runways and cargo areas.

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