Tisha Thompson & Rick Yarborough
The News4 I-Team learned about a security breach at Ronald Reagan National Airport: A man accused of sneaking into secured areas with a security badge that should have been confiscated. And now the search is on for at least 20 other missing badges.
Tilahune Engida appeared in Arlington District Court Wednesday to face charges of trespassing and breaking and entering. He used to work for Flight Services and Systems as a ramp agent, unloading bags and cleaning aircraft at Ronald Reagan National Airport.
On Engida's Facebook page you'll find pictures of him hanging out inside an airplane. But the former FSS employee got in trouble for being in the wrong place July 7. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police arrested and charged him with trespassing and breaking into an airplane.
According to an internal letter obtained by the News4 I-Team from Airport Manager Paul Malandrino to Flight Services and Systems, "Engida's badge expired March 31 and he was removed from FSS's payroll on June 14th, but FSS never collected and returned his badge."
The letter says Engida violated airport security "rules and TSA regulations each time he entered any of these restricted areas" without a valid badge.
And even after his termination "an FSS employee, on at least two occasions ... provided access … to Mr. Engida.”
A spokesperson for the Airports Authority tells us it "takes this matter very seriously and is continuing its investigation."
They've already taken action after finding "the badges of at least 21 other FSS employees have been deactivated and have not been returned.”
The Airports Authority says all of FSS's identification badges at Reagan have now been disabled and the company's permit terminated, meaning the airline servicing company “is no longer operating at the airport.”
We reached out to FSS President Robert Weitzel but did not hear back. In a letter we obtained from him to the airport, he apologizes for the violations committed, saying, "the disregard for the security of the Airport is seriously unacceptable to me.”
He says the company has taken action to prevent this from happening again and is working to track down the former employees who have not returned their badges.
FSS provides services at 26 different airports and has contracts with more than 70 airlines or airport groups.
As for Engida, the lesser charge of trespassing was dismissed in court Wednesday, but he now faces a felony charge of breaking into an airplane next month.
The Airports Authority released the following statement:
“On Sunday, July 7, Tilahune Engida, 31, was arrested by MWAA police on charges of trespassing and burglary after he accessed a restricted area at Reagan National Airport without authorization. The individual is a former employee of an airline servicing company that is no longer operating at the airport.
The Airports Authority takes this matter very seriously and is continuing its investigation.”