OHL Solutions Inc., a large logistics services provider based in Brentwood, Tenn., has agreed to pay a $1 million civil fine and take other remedial steps for failing to properly screen cargo for explosives as a designated agent of the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana announced Wednesday.
The violations were committed by ActivAir, OHL's air freight forwarding division previously acquired from a British firm, at its Indianapolis facility and first came to light in December 2010
OHL/ActivAir had been cleared by the TSA to inspect cargo as part of its Certified Cargo Screening Program, which is designed to take pressure off airlines by conducting checks further up the supply chain in response to a congressional mandate to screen 100 percent of cargo on passenger planes. Companies participating in the voluntary program must establish a secure screening area within their facilities, conduct background checks on personnel with access to the secure area, and ensure a secure chain of custody for the ground transportation to the airline. Shippers and logistics providers can physically search open boxes or use X-ray or explosive trace detection technology to screen shipments at the individual box level.
"When it comes to national security, there is no room for error, and we have no tolerance for shortcuts," U.S. attorney Joseph H. Hogstett said in a statement. "This record-setting fine, and the important corrective actions taken by the company, underscore our dedication to ensuring the safety of all those who travel through America's airports."
The U.S. Attorney's Office alleged that employees working for New York-based ActivAir falsely labeled shipments as having been screened according to required protocols. The case represents the largest regulatory fine ever assessed by TSA against a cargo entity for intentionally violating TSA requirements.
Three Indianapolis residents, Andrew Barnes, 32; Brian Vanhandel, 31, and Mitchell Totty, 26, plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit federal reporting and recordkeeping violations, which presumably were unearthed during a TSA audit. Each faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. An initial hearing will be scheduled before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the near future.
“ActivAir has acknowledged the serious nature of the misconduct that occurred in its Indianapolis branch office, offered its complete cooperation in connection with the TSA investigation, and accepted full responsibility for the actions of its employees," said Frank Eichler, OHL's vice president and general counsel. “ActivAir’s management recognizes the importance of TSA security measures and has taken decisive action to prevent the recurrence of the compliance failures discovered at its Indianapolis branch office. ActivAir remains committed to a policy of strict compliance with all security regulations going forward.”
OHL has fully integrated ActivAir within its global freight forwarding unit and no longer uses the separate name to do business. — Eric Kulisch
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