Crime

TSA's Miami Screening Director Left MPD After Getting Caught Trying To Buy Sex

The Transportation Security Administration workers who keep Miami International Airport safe from terrorists, criminals, and Solange Knowles's Afro (no, really, they thoroughly searched her hair last month) earned a dubious distinction in October. According to an analysis by ABC News, the TSA had fired more agents for theft at MIA than at any other airport in the nation.

So who exactly is in charge of the guys screening baggage at MIA? Turns out one of the top administrators is a former Miami cop who left the department in 2000 after he was caught trying to solicit sex from an undercover officer.

Juan Garcia is the assistant federal security director for screening at TSA's Miami headquarters, charged with overseeing the metal-detector-operating, body-patdown-performing agents outside the gates. But until 2000, he was an 18-year veteran of the Miami Police Department who'd worked his way up to major.

That all changed the night of June 24, 2000. Garcia had spent the evening with fellow cops at a farewell party for a departing assistant chief. But just after 10:30 p.m., Garcia slowed his maroon Impala to a stop near NE Third Avenue and 79th Street and motioned to a woman lurking on the corner.

He offered her $60 and asked for a "fuck and a suck," according to internal affairs records. Unfortunately for Garcia, the woman turned out to be an undercover officer named Ella Moore. The major was arrested and charged with soliciting a prostitute, and IA charges of conduct unbecoming an officer were also filed.

A judge later withheld adjudication on the criminal charges in exchange for Garcia completing a diversion program, and he promptly resigned from the department. IA investigators later sustained the internal charge.

Shortly after leaving MPD, Garcia landed at the federal TSA. A spokeswoman declined to comment about Garcia but sent a statement from the agency: "[Garcia] fully disclosed the charge on his application. As part of a full background check, TSA determined the charge had been dropped and therefore did not violate any hiring qualifications."

As for ABC's report -- which found 29 Miami TSA agents canned for sticky fingers since 2002 -- she sent a statement from the agency saying, "TSA has zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace and takes immediate action when allegations are substantiated."

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink