BUFFALO, N.Y.--( release) U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Minnetta Walker, 43, of Buffalo, N.Y., was arrested and charged by criminal Complaint with conspiring to defraud the United States by interfering with and obstructing the security measures, procedures and requirements of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, and with aiding and abetting another individual in entering an aircraft and airport area in violation of federal security requirements. The conspiracy charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both, while the violation of federal security requirements carries a penalty of up to one year in prison, a fine of $100,000, or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Catherine Baumgarten, who is handling the case, stated that according to the Affidavit in support of the Complaint, the defendant worked at the Buffalo Airport as a Behavioral Detection Officer with TSA, a division of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The Affidavit states that in this capacity, the defendant facilitated the breach of security measures by several airline passengers by, among other things, permitting one person to travel under a false name, and by assisting persons to bypass normal security measures by escorting passengers through the Buffalo airport security and directing travelers away from the body image scanner/patdown security line, which can detect items carried on the person. The Affidavit further stated that on occasion, the defendant waited with certain persons at the aircraft departure gate, preventing those travelers from being subjected to random secondary screening. On yet another occasion, the Affidavit stated that Walker may have alerted an individual traveling through the Buffalo airport to surveillance being conducted by federal law enforcement officers.
One of the airline travelers identified during the course of this investigation is Derek Frank, 30, of Amherst, N.Y. Frank was also arrested today and charged by criminal Complaint with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, possession with intent to distribute, and the distribution of 100 kilograms or more of marijuana and conspiracy. If convicted, defendant Frank faces a mandatory term of 20 years in prison, a fine of $2,000,000, or both.
United States Attorney William Hochul stated that “this Office, working with our law enforcement partners, will vigorously pursue any efforts to breach or evade the security of our region’s airports. We will also continue to hold all public servants to the highest standards of their profession.”
“Today represents the efforts of Federal and local law enforcement working together,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James H. Robertson. “The TSA has been working with the FBI, DEA and our other law enforcement partners from the start of this investigation. I want to assure the traveling public that this was a drug investigation. At no time was the traveling public at risk.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge John P. Gilbride stated, “Federal, state and local law enforcement worked collaboratively to identify and arrest two individuals – one with a badge and one without – who were abusing our transportation security in order to transport bulk quantities of alleged narco dollars out of the Buffalo area. In this day and age there is no explanation for someone who is responsible for protecting transportation routes to turn a blind eye on security for profit.”
The arrest is the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James H. Robertson, Special Agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Lev Kubiak, Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dale Kasprzyk, the Transportation Security Administration under the direction of Derek DiPietro and officers of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, under the direction of Chief George Gast.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.