The TSA may have its eagle sights set on your underwear and water bottle, but it failed to miss the real security threat under its nose, it was revealed Monday, after a supervisor holding a top security job in a New Jersey airport was arrested for using the stolen identity of a dead man.
Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole, known to his fellow workers as “Jerry Thomas,” obtained his job as a security guard supervisor at the Newark Liberty International Airport with credentials he’d allegedly stolen in 1992 from a petty criminal who was shot and killed in New York that year, according to CBS.
Authorities say Oyewole, who entered the U.S. illegally in 1989, began using Thomas’ birth certificate and Social Security number three weeks before he was murdered, though there’s no immediate evidence that he was involved in Thomas’ death. He used these documents to obtain a New Jersey driver’s license in Thomas’ name, as well as a state security guard license, airport identification and credit cards.
He used the fraudulent documents to gain employment with several contractors at the Newark airport, most recently with FJC Security Services.
At the time of his arrest on Monday, he was supervising 30 other security guards at the airport, including workers responsible for inspecting cargo vehicles, according to The Associated Press. His job also gave him unfettered access to the tarmac and to passenger planes.
The Newark airport is one of the busiest in the nation. More than 33 million travelers passed through it in 2010.
Authorities discovered Oyewole wasn’t the man he said he was only after an anonymous letter was sent to the Port Authority of New York, which oversees the region’s main airports, and to the New Jersey’s inspector general’s office. The letter indicated that “Jerry Thomas” was known by other names.
Oyewole may have been able to slip past security checks with a fake identify for two decades because he began using Thomas’ identity years before background checks became more stringent.
The Transportation Security Administration, which conducts security threat assessments at airports and requires anyone with access to sensitive areas to carry a security badge, was created only after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
To obtain a badge for secure areas, workers need to provide a Social Security number and proof of name and place of birth. The Port Authority is responsible for validating the information and submitting this and other information to the FBI for a fingerprint-based criminal background check, after which the TSA conducts a security threat assessment on the individual.
It’s believed that because Oyewole was already a trusted worker at the time security assessments became more strict, no one bothered to dig deeply into his background.
But Oyewole’s scam against the airport apparently wasn’t the only security issue there. On the same day he was arrested, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General released a report showing that the Newark airport was one of the worst in reporting security breaches that occurred at its facilities.
A “security breach” was defined as an incident where an individual gained access to sterile areas of an airport without submitting to screening or inspection at a TSA checkpoint.
The IG found that TSA employees at six airports surveyed reported only about 42 percent of security breaches, with the Newark Liberty airport being one of the worst offenders, reporting even fewer security breaches than others. The precise number of security breaches at the Newark airport were redacted in the report.