A woman who was beaten, kidnapped and brought to Miami International Airport by her assailants could have been forced to fly with them to New York – but two alert TSA agents noticed that something was wrong, authorities said.
In airport surveillance video obtained exclusively by NBC 6 South Florida, the victim is seen arriving at the terminal on July 5. She wore a scarf around her face to conceal the injuries sustained in an alleged beating, authorities said.
Two Miami Transportation Security Administration officers said they detected something was wrong with her.
“When she came closer I realized she was black and blue on both sides of her face, her forehead. I noticed her shoulder looked like she had a big rug burn,” said a TSA officer named Ray, who did not want to use his full name nor show his face on television for security reasons. “Later on I found out from her that they had dragged her across the floor.”
She looked afraid, said another TSA officer, Danielle, who also did not want to be fully identified.
The fear came from a beating the woman took inside a fifth-floor room at the Best Western hotel in North Miami, police said. Detectives said the woman came to South Florida with a group on vacation – but it turned to a nightmare when one woman accused the victim having an intimate relationship with her boyfriend. She was then beaten and kidnapped, North Miami Police said.
She was forced to go to the bank and withdraw funds, threatened, and taken to the airport for a flight back to New Jersey, police said.
That's when the two TSA officers, who are trained to detect suspicious behavior that could be an indicator of a terrorist attack, used those skills to save the woman as she was about to go through the security checkpoint.
"The way that she was acting, we actually thought it was a case of an abduction because she looked very young,” Danielle said.
Her partner approached her and asked her to come with them, Danielle added.
“She told us basically to help her and to take her away from the people that she was traveling with,” Danielle said.
Other officers then stepped in to detain four individuals, two women and two men.
Melissa Pineiro is charged with kidnapping, robbery, false imprisonment and battery, and Tori Beato is charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, battery and theft. They are pleading not guilty, have both bonded out of jail and will be back in Miami-Dade court Aug. 6, according to court records.
The two men were released.
“I believe we saved her life that day,” Ray said of the victim. “According to her, she told us they threatened to kill her if she told anybody.”
The head of TSA security at MIA says that its program looking at someone’s behavior –which when first installed caused some people to be concerned about their privacy –assisted in bringing this woman to safety.
”In the course of their duty, they did what they were trained to do,” said Mark Hatfield, the agency’s director at MIA. “They saw stress, they saw fear, and it turned out that this woman was in really dire danger.”