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Local air-freight operator fined $1M for security violation

February 8, 2012

OHL Solutions Inc. will pay a $1 million fine for shirking its duty to screen for explosives cargo bound for passenger planes at Indianapolis International Airport, U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett announced Wednesday morning.

New York-based OHL, formerly doing business as ActivAir Inc., agreed to the fine and other remedial steps after a lengthy investigation by the Transportation Security Administration, Hogsett’s office said in a prepared statement. The investigation covered activities prior to December 2010.

Hogsett said the case represents the largest fine ever assessed by TSA against a cargo entity for intentionally violating security requirements.

“When it comes to national security, there is no room for error, and we have no tolerance for shortcuts,” Hogsett said. “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 prior to December 2010, employees working for OHL in Indianapolis engaged in a systemic pattern of record-keeping violations. They failed to properly screen 100 percent of air cargo for explosives, as required by their security program, Hogsett alleged. Then, they continued to certify that air cargo, which was later shipped on passenger planes, had been screened, he alleged.

As a result of the TSA investigation, three Indianapolis residents: Andrew Barnes, 32, Brian Vanhandel, 31, and Mitchell Totty, 26, have each agreed to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit federal reporting and recordkeeping violations.

Barnes, Vanhandel and Totty each face a maximum of five years in prison and $250,000 fine, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia J. Ridgeway, who is prosecuting the case for the government. An initial hearing will be scheduled before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the near future.

The violations are based on the federal recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, Hogsett said. This law requires that 100 percent of all cargo transported on passenger aircraft be screened for explosives.

“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, vice president and general counsel for OHL, in a prepared statement.  “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.”

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