- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

The Justice Department yesterday accused a firm that provides security at U.S. airports, including Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports, of violating a court order by continuing to hire security personnel with criminal records and by not performing proper background checks.
A memorandum submitted to the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia said Argenbright Security Inc. of Atlanta should be ordered to a hearing to explain why it failed to live up to the terms and conditions of a probation order issued in June 2000 after it had been cited for failing to conduct proper background checks on its security staff.
The Justice Department said an investigation found that Argenbright had continued to hire security personnel at Philadelphia International Airport who had disqualifying criminal convictions. The firm also retained and continued to employ personnel with criminal records, and made false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding employee background checks, it said.
The department also said Argenbright failed to conduct required audits and engaged in violations of new FAA regulations at 13 airports throughout the United States, including Dulles and Reagan airports.
Officials at Argenbright were not available for comment last night. No hearing date has been set.
The department said that between 1995 and 1998, Argenbright in Philadelphia hired more than 1,300 untrained "pre-departure screeners" to work at security checkpoints at Philadelphia International Airport over a period of more than four years.
In addition, it said, the firm hired dozens of criminals as screeners because of Argenbright's "willful failure to verify their backgrounds or criminal history, while falsely certifying that the verifications had been done."
The company, according to the memo, also "encouraged and permitted" screener training test scores to be falsified and phony high school graduation credentials (GEDs) to be created. Fraudulent bills also were submitted to air carriers, who were charged for pre-departure screener services that were never provided, the memo said.
In May 2000, Argenbright Holdings Limited, Argenbright Security, Philadelphia district manager Steven E. Saffer, administrative manager Sandra Lawrence and personnel manager Helen Fields pleaded guilty to felonies that the Justice Department said "potentially jeopardized public safety and put lives at risk."
The court, under a plea agreement, fined the company $1 million, ordered $350,000 in restitution to air carriers and a $200,000 payment to cover a portion of the costs of the government's investigation. It also set a mandatory corporate compliance program to ensure that the crimes and regulatory violations did not occur again.
"At the time of sentencing in this case, defendant Argenbright sought to convince this court it had taken a number of positive steps to address the severe weaknesses in its management and compliance structure that were exposed as a result of the crimes it committed in Philadelphia," the department said."In fact, Argenbright's violations continued even at the time of sentencing in this case," the department said.

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