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Feds: Airport security firm to admit violation

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Seventeen months after three managers pleaded guilty to breaking FAA rules by allowing untrained employees -- some with criminal backgrounds -- to operate airport checkpoints, an airport security firm is expected to admit it failed to complete court-ordered background checks on its employees, the U.S. Justice Department said Saturday.

The admission will be made under the terms of a proposed settlement with the federal government.

Representatives of Argenbright Security Inc. were not immediately available for comment.

The agreement, posted on the Justice Department's Web site, calls for a series of corrective measures, including extending Argenbright's original three-year probation to five years, ending in October 2005.

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Other terms would require "fingerprint based criminal background checks" on airport service employees, who would be barred from working in sensitive positions until results of the checks show they have not been convicted of a disqualifying crime.

Three Argenbright managers pleaded guilty in May 2000 to crimes involving Argenbright's employment practices at Philadelphia International Airport. The company was put on probation for three years, ordered to pay $1.55 million in fines and restitution and put on "a mandatory and comprehensive compliance program."

Proposed settlement

Last week, the Department of Justice filed a motion against Argenbright charging violations of the probation.

A subsequent Department of Transportation audit of the company's operations at 14 airports found the company was still employing numerous airport screeners who had been convicted of crimes that should have disqualified them.

In the proposed settlement, Argenbright is expected to admit failing to complete required audits through April 2001. Limited audits that were performed uncovered regulatory violations.

In addition, the company failed to obtain third-party verifications of 22 of 34 operational audits conducted since August.

The Georgia-based firm provides security at Philadelphia International Airport and airports nationwide including Newark International Airport, Boston's Logan International Airport, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.

Two of the four planes taken over by hijackers in the September 11 terrorist attacks took off from Logan and one plane each took off from Dulles and Newark.

Argenbright employees have not been connected to any of the hijackings.


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