It is the dream of many people to live and work in the United States. Some people come to the United States legally, some illegally … and some come here legally and simply stay illegally.
For Bimbo Oyewole, a Nigerian immigrant, who had spent the past twenty years as a security supervisor at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), his arrival in the United States in 1989 was completely legal with a student visa, however once his visa expired, his remaining in the United States is far from legal.
In 1992, while seeking to stay in the United States, and seeking employment, Mr. Oyewole, purchased the identity and identity papers of Jerry Thomas. Mr. Thomas, in need of money, sold his identity to a Nigerian taxi driver, who in turn sold them to Mr. Oyewole. With the new identity as Jerry Thomas, Mr. Oyewole was hired as by a security firm at Newark Airport. With an illegally obtained birth certificate and social security card for identification granted his Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) Badge by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. This is straight forward, and given the background check technology in 1992, understandable that he was not caught, had it not been for one twist … Jerry Thomas was dead … and not just dead …
Just three weeks after Mr. Oyewole assumed the identity of Jerry Thomas, Mr. Thomas was shot, and killed, outside of a YMCA in Queens, New York. The New York City Police Department, who regularly works closely with the Port Authority Police, investigated the homicide of the real Jerry Thomas, and Mr. Thomas was buried under his real name. Despite the homicide investigation, and notification of death presumably to the State of New York, no agency caught onto a dead man paying into social security and renewing air-side airport security badges with the same date of birth and social security number as a dead man … and man who was murdered.
While Mr. Oyewole was not involved in the death of Mr. Thomas, some read flags should have gone up in the system, especially during the background check of someone being granted an air side airport security badge.
Despite changes to the background checks of all SIDA card holders implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Oyewole was caught the old fashioned way, an anonymous letter. This past May, while working as a security supervisor with FJC Security Service at Newark Airport, overseeing more than 30 security guards at the airport, he was discovered and arrested, stripped of his assumed identity.
Last week Mr. Oyewole plead guilty, in a plea agreement, to using a false identity to obtain a security badge and identity theft, for which the prosecutors have recommended he receive probation. He will sentenced on the 19th of October and faces deportation.
While Mr. Oyewole will pay for his crimes, the bigger question here, in an age of hyper vigilant aviation security, with multiple layers of information security in place, is how could a man work for the past twenty years as an airport security supervisor using the identity of a man who was murdered in a neighboring jurisdiction? Airports and their overseeing agencies discuss security very often in absolutes, yet the most basic elements of security are often the trickiest.