Twenty workers at Logan Airport charged for false identification



Samantha Martin, Sullivan's spokeswoman, said 15 people were taken into custody in a sweep Wednesday morning. Five more workers were expected to be in custody by the afternoon.

The security badges enabled the workers to have access to all areas of the airport, including terminals, baggage areas, screened passenger checkpoints and runways.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon to announce details of the charges, which are part of an ongoing investigation to improve airport safety.

The employees work for private companies at Logan, not the airport itself. It was not immediately clear if all the workers faced the same charges.

Each of the workers was being brought into U.S. District Court for an initial appearance, but the court would only release the complaint against one worker, Edgar B. Argueta, 28, of El Salvador.

Argueta was accused of submitting an application Jan. 12 that included false INS employment authorization and a fraudulent social security number. He was given the access badge as an employee of Precision Cleaning Co. based on the false information, according to the court papers.

The cleaning company did not immediately return a call for comment.

The first three defendants -- Argueta, Heidy Fortin, 24, originally of Honduras; and Juan Cabrera, 24, originally of Guatemala -- were ordered held pending a detention hearing. They were charged with making false statements, fraudulent and misuse of documents and use of a false social security number. It was not immediately clear if they all worked for Precision.

Argueta's complaint did not say anything about whether he misused his security pass or breached security.

The ongoing review was sparked by a Social Security and Immigration and Naturalization Service audit that found a high number of airport laborers were using invalid numbers.

In December, 271 workers at Salt Lake City International Airport were fired after a federal investigation dubbed "Operation Safe Travel" revealed they'd lied to get their jobs and badges. A similar sweep also was done at the Las Vegas airport.

Security at Logan has been particularly in the spotlight because the two hijacked planes that destroyed the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 took off from there.

"This federal involvement strengthens the ability of airports around the country to weed out individuals that have misled the federal government," said Jose Juves, spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan.

State police have been conducting background checks of employees of businesses that operate at Logan since 1987, Juves said.

"We did the maximum check permissible under the law with information made available to Massport," he said.

Hundreds of people have been denied jobs because of the checks, which include a Massachusetts criminal history check and check of outstanding warrants, he said.

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