BUFFALO, N.Y. release) -- U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned an Indictment charging Minnetta Walker, 43, of Buffalo, N.Y., 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 the defendant worked at the Buffalo Airport as a Behavioral Detection Officer with TSA, a division of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Walker was specially trained to observe and analyze human behavior to detect individuals exhibiting behaviors that indicated they may be a threat to aviation security.
According to the Indictment, the defendant assisted individuals in bypassing the normal security procedures, including the functions performed by a TSA screener or Travel Document Checker to examine persons, property and other articles entering aircraft and the secure airport area. The Indictment further alleges that Walker facilitated the breach of security measures by several airline passengers by, among other things, leading persons through security and bypassing the Travel Document Checker without stopping, preventing scrutiny of that person’s travel and permitting the person to travel under a false name using false identification and travel documents in that name. The defendant also assisted persons in bypassing normal security measures by escorting them through security and directing travelers away from the body image scanner/patdown security line, which can detect items, such as large sums of currency, carried on the person. The Indictment further states that on occasion, Walker waited with certain persons at the aircraft departure gate, preventing those travelers from being subjected to random secondary screening. The defendant is also charged with detecting the presence of law enforcement activity and alerting individuals in an effort to interfere with that law enforcement activity.
The Indictment stems from an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard W. Kollmar, Special Agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Lev J. Kubiak, Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Resident 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.