Salt Lake Airport Workers Arrested

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Salt Lake City, Utah Dec 12, 2001 (AP by Rich Vosepka)--Dozens of airport workers were arrested Tuesday and charged by federal prosecutors with using false information to get jobs at Salt Lake International Airport.

U.S. Attorney Paul Warner said most of the employees lied to get security badges that gave them access to secure areas. He said there were no known links to terrorism, but called the indictments important to national security.

``People who have lied to get access, they become much more subject to blackmail,'' he said. ``We picked them (for prosecution) because they worked in the most secure areas of the airport.''

Salt Lake City is the site of the Winter Olympics in February. Some $300 million has been earmarked for security, including thousands of guards, radar planes and biological and chemical detectors.

All the indicted employees worked for airport contractors, such as food services, or had jobs fueling aircraft or handling cargo.

Most of the suspects have been arrested, said Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert Flowers. ``I've seen the disappointment on their faces, but some didn't seem that surprised,'' Flowers said.

The airport is home to 20,000 employees, including contract workers. The records of some 9,000 people were checked during the investigation, authorities said.

Besides the indicted employees, 200 more were fired for allegedly working with phony credentials. They will not be prosecuted because they worked in less secure areas.

The firings and arrests are not expected to disrupt operations, said Tim Campbell, executive director of Salt Lake International.

Many of those charged are from Central American countries, Warner said.

Sixty-one people are charged with using fake immigration and Social Security documents to get security badges. Investigators said those workers were in the country illegally.

Six others are charged with lying about their past criminal history to get the security clearance. The remaining two did not have security badges but relied on false information to get airport jobs.

``Misuse of Social Security numbers is the starting point for many crimes,'' said James Huse Jr., inspector general for the Social Security Administration. ``We know terrorism is one of those crimes.''

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, aviation security has been a top issue for state and federal authorities.

Investigators around the country have rounded up illegal immigrants suspected of using fake documents to get airport security credentials. There have also been arrests in at the Denver and Miami airports.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said the airport is now double-checking the Social Security numbers of all employees who seek security badges.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press