TSA agent arrested for sexually abusing passenger at LaGuardia

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/Thomas Lillis IV

Updated 4:22 p.m. 

A TSA agent has been charged for sexually assaulting a college student inside a LaGuardia Airport bathroom earlier this week while making her believe she had to be searched for weapons, according to the district attorney’s office.

Port Authority detectives arrested Maxie Oquendo, 40, of Manhattan after Tuesday’s incident and he is currently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges of unlawful imprisonment, official misconduct, sexual abuse and harassment. If convicted, he faces up to one year in jail.

According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, on Tuesday the 21-year-old student , who was reportedly from Korea, had arrived at LaGuardia Airport on a flight from Salt Lake City when she was approached by Oquendo in Terminal B after she walked out of the sterile checkpoint area and entered an area where passengers do not have to be screened. He then told her, “Hey, ma’am, I need to scan your body and your luggage.”

Oquendo then motioned with his hand for the victim to follow him to the bathroom, where they waited outside for about 10 minutes before entering, authorities said. Inside, the victim then allegedly told Oquendo, “You can’t scan me but you can have a woman scan me because I am a girl.” He then told her to face the mirror and raise both arms up. The woman asked Oquendo if he checked all passengers and he allegedly said yes.

Oquendo then had the victim lift up her shirt and unzip her pants, and he touched her breasts and other areas of her body both over and under her clothing, prosecutors said. He then told her that he was not going to check her luggage and into his cellphone said, “She’s clear. She doesn’t have any weapons or knives.”

“The defendant is accused of an egregious abuse of his position as a government screener at LaGuardia Airport to sexually victimize a young woman. Such alleged conduct cannot, under any circumstances, go unpunished,” Brown said.

According to the TSA, its officers do not have the authority to conduct a secondary pat-down outside of a checkpoint area. The agency added that opposite gender screening requiring a pat-down can only be done when there are no female officers available and a witness is present during such pat-downs, which must be conducted in a designated private screening area in a TSA checkpoint.

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