By Jim Kouri
Minnetta Walker of Buffalo, New York, on Wednesday was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and faces 2 years in federal prison to be followed by one year of supervised released, according to a report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police.
The 43-year old Walker was employed by the United States Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as a Behavior Detection Officer, assigned to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport (Buffalo Airport) in Cheektowaga, New York.
Many observers of this case believe her punishment doesn’t reflect the seriousness of her crime as a federal enforcement officer.
The TSA is responsible for ensuring passenger safety and national security as it relates to the country’s air, rail and public transportation. The defendant’s official position required that she observe, detect, and analyze conduct and behavior in persons throughout the airport, which indicated a particular traveler could be a threat to aviation security. Such activity is known an psychological profiling or behavior analysis.
The investigation established that while on official duty, Walker assisted certain individuals in bypassing the normal security procedures, measures, and requirements at the Buffalo Airport. The defendant’s criminal conduct included allowing one suspected narcotics trafficker — Miguel Guzman — to travel under a fictitious name, and permitting that individual to bypass the ticket document checker, whose job is to examine persons, property and other articles entering aircraft and the airport area at the Buffalo Airport.
Walker also on occasion directed the suspected narcotic trafficker to bypass the body image scanner/pat-down security line and interfered with a screener’s ability to monitor the x-ray of his belongings.
In addition, the defendant admitted that she alerted at least one other suspected trafficker to the fact that police officers were conducting undercover surveillance of him. The two suspected narcotics traffickers are pending indictment on unrelated narcotics conspiracy charges.
Other individuals convicted to date in the public corruption aspects of the investigation consist of former U.S. Airways employee Tinisha Tucker-Anthony and Regina R. McCullen, a former City of Buffalo employee, both of whom provided one of the suspected narcotics traffickers with fraudulent travel and identification documents, respectively.
Miguel Guzman, meanwhile, has been convicted of narcotic conspiracy charges in connection with this case, and is awaiting sentencing.
“As a TSA employee, Minetta Walker represented one of the nation’s last lines of defense when it comes to airline safety and national security. In this position, the public had a right to expect from Walker the highest degree of honesty and integrity. By abusing her position of trust, Walker not only dishonored her profession, she permitted illegal narcotics trafficking to continue to the detriment of the Western New York community. Today’s sentence sends a strong message that such behavior will not be permitted by this office,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul.