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Ex-TSA agent ordered held without bail on LAX threat charges

Media vehicles are parked outside the apartment complex (R) of suspect Nna Alpha Onuoha in Inglewood, California September 11, 2013. REUTERS
Media vehicles are parked outside the apartment complex (R) of suspect Nna Alpha Onuoha in Inglewood, California September 11, 2013. REUTERS

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former federal airport screener was ordered held without bail on Monday, pending trial on charges he made threats against Los Angeles International Airport two months after he was suspended for telling a teenage girl she was dressed inappropriately.

A federal magistrate judge ordered 29-year-old Nna Alpha Onuoha, a Nigerian-born U.S. military veteran, detained on the grounds that he represented a flight risk if he were to be released after posting a bond.

Onuoha, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested on Tuesday in connection with written and telephoned threats made hours after his resignation from the Transportation Security Administration and on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

According to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent in the case, Onuoha was suspended from his job as a TSA screener for a week in July after he was accused of making inappropriate comments to a 15-year-old girl in his security line.

The girl's father, Mark Frauenfelder, founder of the website Boing Boing, made headlines in June when he blogged about the incident, writing that a TSA screener had "humiliated and shamed" his daughter.

In the blog post, Frauenfelder wrote that the TSA agent had glared at his daughter and mumbled to himself before telling her in a hostile tone: "You're only 15, COVER YOURSELF!".

According to the FBI affidavit, Onuoha returned to the TSA's headquarters at the Los Angeles airport on Tuesday afternoon, about four hours after resigning, and left a sealed express-mail envelope addressed to a manager there.

Onuoha is also accused of calling TSA officers twice and airport police once that afternoon, advising that they should begin evacuating the airport. The FBI said he told an airport police officer that he was "going to deliver a message to America and the whole world."

Law enforcement officers cleared several terminals following the phone calls, but no threat was found.

The package that Onuoha allegedly left was found to contain an eight-page document titled, "The End of America, the End of Satan, we were not defeated," which expressed his thoughts on the episode involving Frauenfelder's daughter, the affidavit said.

Following the alleged threats, law enforcement agents went to Onuoha's apartment in a suburban Los Angeles veterans' housing complex and found it empty, the FBI affidavit said, except for a handwritten note taped to a closet door that read: "09/11/2013 THERE WILL BE FIRE! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!"

Onuoha was charged on Wednesday with making false threats affecting interstate commerce. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison if convicted.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Ken Wills)

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