(CBS/AP) NEWARK, N.J. - An illegal immigrant worked undetected at Newark Liberty International Airport for 20 years, and used a dead man's identity to acquire a top position in airport security, officials said.
The man was known to co-workers as Jerry Thomas, and for nearly 20 years he has guarded some of the most secure areas of one of the nation's busiest airports.
He was arrested Monday after authorities discovered he is really an illegal Nigerian immigrant by the name of Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole (among other alilases) who entered the country in 1989, officials said.
CBS Station WCBS reports Oyewole, 54, allegedly assumed the identity of a dead man to get a top security job at the airport. He was arrested at his Elizabeth, N.J., home following an anonymous tip, officials said.
"In this case, the defendant utilized an elaborate and complex scheme of identity theft to defraud his employer, the State of New Jersey, the federal government and the Port Authority," Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Inspector General Robert Van Etten said.
The revelation came the same day that the Inspector General's Office of the Transportation Security Administration released a report saying that TSA officials at Newark Liberty took corrective actions in fewer than half (42 percent) of the security breaches shown in its records.
The OIG also said TSA does not have a comprehensive oversight program in order to collate information on security breaches and, consequently, cannot monitor trends or make improvements to security.
WCBS correspondent Marcia Kramer reports that Oyewole somehow obtained the birth certificate and Social Security number of a man murdered in Queens in 1992. He used that identity to obtain a New Jersey driver's license, a state security guard license, airport identification and even credit cards, officials said.
"Jerry Thomas" worked security at Newark, and had access to the tarmac and passenger planes without ever being detected, officials said. At the time of his arrest he supervised 30 other guards, Kramer reported.
Authorities want to know how he got the ID made and whether he was involved in the man's death. The NYPD is checking his fingerprints to see if they match those at the scene of the still-unsolved murder.
Authorities are also investigating if the Nigerian, who used the alias "Bimbo" among others, was involved in criminal activity at the airport.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the area's main airports and other transit hubs, said Oyewole entered the United States illegally in 1989 and had worked under several contractors at the airport, most recently FJC Security Services. The agency said its investigation found no indication that he used the fake identity for any reason other than to live in the United States.
Agency spokesman Steve Coleman said the Port Authority had spoken with FJC officials about re-checking their security personnel on a regular basis.
FJC Security, which obtained an airport contract in 2003, said it conducted a background check on the guard, as had New Jersey State Police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and that in all cases Oyewole had passed the background checks. "During his time with FJC, he had nothing in his record or his performance to indicate a cause for concern or a reason to question the state police and federal government's background checks," said FJC spokesman Michael McKeon.
State Police spokesman Lt. Stephen Jones said New Jersey requires security guards to undergo training under the Security Officer Registration Act (SORA) and be fingerprinted. The fingerprints are run through the state police criminal history database before a guard is certified.
A candidate is disqualified if he or she has a conviction for a fourth-degree offense or higher or a drug offense of any level, Jones said. Oyewole - as Thomas - was certified under SORA, he said.
In a statement, the TSA said it was reviewing the Port Authority's procedures for validating employee and contractor documents, and noted that Oyewole's identification documents were presented to the Port Authority for verification "about a decade before TSA existed."
Highly-placed sources told WCBS' Marcia Kramer that their biggest concern is the ID scam itself. They fear there could be thousands who could have used it and some they say may be sleeper terror agents working at critical locations throughout the country.
Passengers were stunned.
"It's unbelievable," traveler Christine Phillips of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., told WCBS correspondent Hazel Sanchez. "They need to use fingerprints. They need to use eye retinas. We need to get into the space age and update our programs because these things aren't working."