NEW YORK (AP) – A former federal transportation security agent remained held on $3,000 bail Saturday after being charged with luring a 21-year-old South Korean exchange student going to school in Utah into a bathroom at a New York City airport and molesting her.
Maxie Oquendo, 40, was arrested Thursday on unlawful imprisonment, official misconduct and sexual abuse charges, two days after authorities say the Transportation Security Administration agent confronted the woman after she stepped off a flight from Salt Lake City Tuesday, telling her a “secondary security screening” was necessary.
The TSA said it has fired Oquendo.
Oquendo’s lawyer did not comment Saturday. At his initial court appearance in state court in Queens on Friday, attorney Seymour James said his client was a loving father of two daughters who has never before been accused of wrongdoing.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a release that the student had left the area of the airport where passengers require screening when he told her: “Hey ma’am, I need to scan your body and your luggage.”
Prosecutors said he motioned for her to follow him to a bathroom when the victim told him: “You can’t scan me but you can have a woman scan me because I am a girl.”
Prosecutors said Oquendo then told her to face the mirror and raise her arms, prompting the student to ask if he checked all passengers. They said he responded yes.
According to the charges, Oquendo then had her lift her shirt and unzip her pants before he touched her over and under her clothing.
Prosecutors said he then told her he was going to check her luggage and then spoke into his cellphone, saying: “She’s clear. She doesn’t have any weapons or knives.”
The TSA does not allow officers to conduct a secondary pat-down outside of a checkpoint area and only permits opposite-gender pat downs if there are no female officers present and a witness is there during a pat down, according to the prosecutor’s release.
“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 in the release.
The New York Daily News reported Saturday that the student was visiting New York City as a tourist before returning to school. The newspaper said the woman filed a complaint with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police and later identified a photograph of Oquendo.