Lambert Airport workers charged with using fake IDs to get jobs

Friday, May 17, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Three Lambert Airport workers arrested last month as part of a nationwide crackdown on airport security were indicted Thursday for using false Social Security numbers to get their jobs.

Armando Florentino, Guillermo Garcia and Jairo Rios were arrested last month and charged in federal court as part of "Operation Tarmac," a nationwide anti-terrorism initiative. U.S. Attorney Ray Gruender has said there was no reason to believe the three were involved in terrorist activity.

As part of the crackdown, hundreds of employees with access to high-security areas of airports have been arrested on charges such as using phony Social Security numbers, lying about past criminal convictions or being in the United States illegally, government records show.

Under Thursday's indictment, Florentino, 33, of St. Louis, and Garcia, 29, and Rios, 42, both of St. Louis County, each face one count of misusing a Social Security number -- a felony that carries up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

The three originally were charged in an April 22 federal complaint, which the government said followed checks by local and federal authorities of more than 10,000 Lambert workers after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Florentino and Rios allegedly used Social Security numbers that had been assigned to others, and Garcia used an invalid number.

After Sept. 11, police at Lambert Airport asked all employees with badge security access to fill out a "badge revalidation form." Each form was checked along with information given when employment began, and the Social Security Administration verified numbers.

Of 10,517 forms checked from Lambert, Florentino, Garcia and Rios were the only three found to be using false numbers, Gruender has said.

Florentino was hired in March 1998 as a Trans States Airlines flight attendant, Gruender's office has said. Garcia and Rios were hired last August as package handlers -- Garcia for Continental Airlines, Rios for Federal Express.

Federal law enforcers said they have arrested or indicted more than 450 workers at Lambert and more than a dozen other U.S. airports.

The workers arrested had security badges allowing them to get onto planes, ramps, runways and cargo areas, investigators said. They were employed by private companies, such as those which clean airplanes or run airport restaurants.

While law enforcement officials said none of those arrested has terrorist links, some aviation experts said the workers were in positions to help smuggle bombs or weapons aboard aircraft, if they wished to do so.

FAA Administrator Jane Garvey in October ordered background checks of an estimated 750,000 airport and airline employees who could enter secured areas of airports. The checks are supposed to be completed by December.

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