NEW YORK, Aug. 28 (Doug G. Ware) — A Transportation Security Administration agent at New York City’s LaGuardia airport formally faces charges of groping a female student — under the guise of searching her for weapons.
According to investigators, the screener took the Korean exchange student into a restroom near a security checkpoint at LaGuardia earlier this week. Inside, they say, he liberally frisked her by claiming to search for contraband.
The agent, Maxie Oquendo, 40, was arrested Thursday and charged Friday. He faces counts of second-degree unlawful imprisonment, official misconduct, third-degree sexual abuse and second-degree harassment.
A TSA agent since 2002, Oquendo was immediately fired.
The 21-year-old Korean native had just arrived in New York City for vacation on Tuesday and was groped after she left the plane, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
“The defendant is accused of an egregious abuse of his position as a government screener at LaGuardia Airport to sexually victimize a young woman,” he said in a statement. “Such alleged conduct cannot, under any circumstances, go unpunished.”
According to Brown’s office, Oquendo first approached the woman in a non-sterile area of LaGuardia’s Terminal B. In other words, she was walking in an area where passengers do not need to be screened for weapons.
“Hey, ma’am, I need to scan your body and your luggage,” Brown’s office claims the agent told her.
After leading her to a nearby restroom, officials said the two waited for about 10 minutes before going in.
“You can’t scan me but you can have a woman scan me because I am a girl,” the woman supposedly told the agent. In response, Oquendo allegedly told her to face the mirror and raise both arms. When the victim asked him if he checked all of the passengers that way, Oquendo allegedly replied yes.
After making the woman lift her shirt and unzip her pants, the agent allegedly touched her all over her body before supposedly uttering into his security radio, “she’s clear. She doesn’t have any weapons or knives.”
Under TSA regulations, no agent is allowed to conduct a secondary search of any passenger outside of a checkpoint area — and screens of the opposite gender can only be done when a screener of the same gender is not available and there is a witness.
If convicted, Oquendo faces up to a year in prison.