TSA screener accused of molesting college student in LaGuardia Airport bathroom

QUEENS, N.Y. -- A TSA screener is accused of sexually assaulting a woman at LaGuardia Airport after telling her she needed to be searched in the bathroom.

According to authorities, 40-year-old Maxie Oquendo was arrested following an investigation of the claims made by the 21-year-old victim, a college student from Korea.

Prosecutors say the victim was in Terminal B at around 8 p.m. Tuesday when she was told by Oquendo to go into the bathroom for a secondary search. Once there, the agent allegedly molested her.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown on Friday announced Oquendo's arrest on charges of second-degree unlawful imprisonment, official misconduct, third-degree sexual abuse and second-degree harassment.

"The defendant is accused of an egregious abuse of his position as a government screener at LaGuardia Airport to sexually victimize a young woman," Brown said. "Such alleged conduct cannot, under any circumstances, go unpunished."

According to the charges, the 21-year-old female college student was exiting LaGuardia Airport after her Salt Lake City flight landed when Oquendo approached her in Terminal B after she had walked out of the sterile checkpoint area and into an area where passengers do not need to be screened. He allegedly stated to her, in sum and substance, "Hey, ma'am, I need to scan your body and your luggage."

It is alleged that Oquendo motioned with his hand for the female victim to follow him to a bathroom, where they waited outside for approximately 10 minutes before entering the bathroom. Inside, the victim alleged stated to Oquendo, in sum and substance, "You can't scan me, but you can have a woman scan me because I am a girl." In response, Oquendo allegedly told her to face the mirror and raise both arms up. When the victim asked him if he checked all of the passengers, Oquendo allegedly replied yes.

It is further alleged that Oquendo had her lift up her shirt and unzip her pants and touched her breasts and other areas of her body over and under her clothing. Afterwards, Oquendo told her that he was not going to check her luggage and stated, in sum and substance, into his cell phone, "She's clear. She doesn't have any weapons or knives."

According to the TSA, screeners do not have the authority to conduct a secondary patdown outside of a checkpoint area and that opposite-gender screening requiring a pat-down can only be done when there are no female officers present and a witness is present during such pat-downs, which must be conducted in a designated private screening area in a TSA checkpoint.

If convicted, Oquendo faces up to one year in jail.
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