tampabay.com

Airport officers report bad data

Inspectors at Orlando Sanford say they were told to falsify records.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 27, 2007


ORLANDO - Six customs inspectors at the Orlando Sanford International Airport have told federal officials that they were instructed to falsify passenger information.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers allege that in 2005, supervisors told them to falsify information typically gathered during direct interviews and inspections of international passengers or crew members, according to documents originally obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

The Associated Press received the documents from federal officials Saturday.

The six - Selma Ocasio, Jose Vazques-Quinones, Eilliam Errico and three unidentified workers - allege that supervisors told them to falsify information entered into a computer database, such as race, length of stay and number of bags.

When questioned about the practice, supervisors allegedly said, "Things were done differently in Sanford."

The inspectors told federal officials that they were instructed to enter the false data because of increased traffic at the airport.

The inspectors were also told to enter incorrect codes that would "falsely reflect that the passenger or crew member had been stopped, interviewed and bags inspected in connection with a suspicion of possessing contraband or engaging in unlawful activity, " the report stated.

One agent entered the information without ever receiving any security clearance or training, according to the documents.

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Zachary Mann declined to discuss the case when contacted by the Associated Press on Saturday, but said the agency takes all allegations of wrongdoing seriously.

Nearly 20, 000 customs officers inspect about 1.1-million visitors each day at the nation's 324 air, land and sea ports of entry. Customs officers inspect about 500, 000 international passengers annually at the Sanford airport.

The six officers were agricultural specialists, employed to detect and stop introduction of animal and plant pests into the United States.

Airport spokeswoman Diane Crews said Saturday she had no knowledge of any employees who were falsifying reports.

Customs officers are federal employees who report to their supervisors and are not under the airport's oversight, Crews said.

Orlando International Airport tightened its security in March when officials broke up an alleged smuggling ring that bypassed airport security checkpoints to send guns and drugs to Puerto Rico.