Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Illegal Immigrant Works in Airport Security for Over 20 Years

Story first appeared in The Associated Press.

For 20 years, co-workers on the security team at one of the nation's busiest airports knew him as Jerry Thomas. His real name has not been disclosed, but the man has been confirmed as a Nigerian who used the name of a murder victim to hide his status as an illegal immigrant.

Though there's no indication of any other intent or transgressions, the revelation came the same day a federal report found that Newark Liberty International Airport mishandled security breaches.

The man worked at the airport, starting in 1992, using the name of Jerry Thomas, who was killed that year in New York City. He was arrested Monday after an anonymous tip at his home in Elizabeth and faced charges including identity theft.

His first hearing was scheduled for late Tuesday morning in state court in Newark.

It wasn't immediately known how Thomas' personal information was acquired. Police in New York also didn't say whether he was a suspect in the July 20, 1992, killing of Thomas in Queens.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the area's main airports and other transit hubs, said he had entered the United States illegally in 1989 and had worked under several contractors at the airport, most recently FJC Security Services, and supervised about 30 guards. The agency said its investigation found no indication that he used the fake identity for any reason other than to live in the United States.

Port Authority leaders had spoken with FJC officials and will meet with them in the coming days to take every legally permissible step to recheck their security personnel on a regular basis and to protect our customers, employees and facilities.

FJC Security, which received an airport contract in 2003, said it conducted a background check on the guard as had New Jersey state police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In all cases, he passed the background checks. During his time with FJC, he had nothing in his record or his performance to indicate a cause for concern or a reason to question the state police and federal government's background checks. In his position as tour supervisor, didn't have access to employees' personal information.

TSA said it was reviewing the Port Authority's procedures for validating employee and contractor documents, according to a Raleigh Immigration Lawyer.

This investigation indicates that the individual's identification documents were presented to the Port Authority for verification about a decade before TSA existed.

The state police spokesman said New Jersey requires security guards to undergo training under the Security Officer Registration Act and be fingerprinted. The fingerprints are run through the state police criminal history database before a guard is certified.

A candidate is disqualified if he or she has a conviction for a fourth-degree offense or higher or a drug offense of any level.

An airport employee who was familiar with the man as Thomas said the private security guards he supervised are responsible for manning TSA security checkpoints after passenger gates close for the evening and before they reopen in the morning. The guards also inspect delivery vehicles for possible unauthorized cargo, he said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.

A report released Monday by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General found that only 42 percent of reported security breaches from January 2010 to May 2011 led to corrective action, though it also found TSA had worked to improve its response.

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