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Sex Offender Passes Through TSA Security

On November 5, a man registered as a sex offender was caught after he passed through a TSA checkpoint using a woman’s boarding pass that she misplaced.

Michael Salata, 61, was arrested after checking into Southwest Airlines Flight 1760 from Salt Lake City to Oakland, California. According to Deseret News, Salata allegedly stole the boarding pass from a Southwest Airlines kiosk, where a woman had printed it and left it.

Salata didn’t know it, but the woman was behind him in line with a replacement boarding pass she had uploaded to her phone, according to Salt Lake Airport Police Chief Craig Vargo.

Vargo said it was unclear whether Salata was accosted on the jetway leading to the plane or on the aircraft. He said, “He tried to make it seem like it was a mistake, that the boarding pass printed incorrectly or that he grabbed the wrong boarding pass, (something) to that effect.”

Southwest airline spokesman Brandy King said the airline stopped the boarding process when they were alerted that the ticket had been scanned twice, according to NBC News. She stated, “All protocols were followed by our employees,” and admitted her awareness of the incident came from an alert from a reporter. She continued, “All passengers must go through the same TSA security screening before arriving at a gate. The security screeners are tasked with verifying a passenger’s boarding pass and identification. Our systems are built to provide notification if a passenger’s boarding pass has already been scanned. In the event that we have two of the same boarding passes, we would work to verify that the correct passengers were onboard and take appropriate action with local authorities, if necessary.”

Salata, who is homeless, was arrested on suspicion of fraudulent handling of a recordable writing, which qualifies as a third-degree felony. In 2005, Salata was convicted of lewdness involving a child in Utah.

Southwest pointed out that it is the job of TSA screeners to verify passengers’ boarding passes and identification, asserting, “All passengers must go through the same TSA security screening process before arriving at a gate.”

TSA spokeswoman Lori Dankers said an agent “made a mistake to properly identify the individual … However, there are multiple layers of security in place. … Both the ticketed passenger and the other individual were fully screened.” She would not say whether the TSA agent who let Salata pass through was disciplined or whether he or she is still employed by the agency.

She concluded, “We are aware of the incident. … Our TSA agent made a mistake to properly identify the individual. However, there are multiple layers of security in place. … Both the ticketed passenger and the other individual were fully screened.”

Vargo, who has worked at Salt Lake International Airport for over 25 years, said, “We have a very good working relationship with TSA. Unfortunately, I think a human element (is to blame). Individuals make mistakes, but luckily we do have a layered approach and multiple people out here looking for things.”

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