LAX Threat Suspect May Have Sent More Packets Yet to Be Delivered

Former TSA screen has been charged with terrorist threats

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    NEWSLETTERS

    After three suspicious package scares were linked to Naa Alpha Onuoha, federal authorities are expecting to receive more packets from the ex-TSA screen accused of making threats against LAX. Patrick Healy reports from LAX for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2013. (Published Friday, Sep 13, 2013)

    More screeds from disgraced former TSA screener Naa Alpha Onuoha may now be going through the postal delivery system, according to the FBI.

    Onuoha was arrested late Tuesday after leaving messages and making calls that federal officials characterized as terrorist threats.

    LAX Threat Suspect Makes First Court Appearance

    [LA] LAX Threat Suspect Makes First Court Appearance
    Nna Alpha Onuoha, the ex-TSA screener accused of making threats against LAX, was charged with two federal counts Wednesday. Only 24 hours after he resigned from the TSA, several ranting letters and images have surfaced. Patrick Healy reports from Downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on September 11, 2013. (Published Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013)

    Concern on Tuesday and Wednesday led to bomb squad technicians being called out to investigate at least three different packets from Onuoha. However, no explosives have been found in any of the packets he sent, or in the LAX terminals he allegedly told officials to evacuate.

    Even so, the FBI is prepared to respond on discovery of any additional packets Onuoha may have mailed before his arrest.

    Onuoha was charged Wednesday in federal court under violations dealing with "false information and hoaxes."

    "It turned out to be far less serious than everybody believed it to be.  But where this gentleman ran afoul was making the threat to clear the airport," said Darren Kavinoky, an attorney and legal analyst who reviewed the criminal filing against Onuoha.

    Deputy federal public defender Samuel Josephs, appointed to represented Onuoha, declined to comment on the case after Wednesday's court appearance, as did the prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

    Onuoha told the FBI he "did not intend to engage in violent conduct," according to an FBI affidavit. Nor did he spell out specific threats in his messages and phone calls.

    "It was vague," Kavinoky said. "But the problem is that the people he communicated to--over and over again--perceived it as a threat."

    Onuoha remains in federal custody and is due back in court Monday for a bond hearing to determine if he is eligible for release while his case proceeds. It is expected the U.S. Attorney will seek a grand jury indictment to supersede complaint filing.

    Since 2006, Onuoha had been working for TSA at LAX and living in nearby Inglewood, at a residential complex dedicated to veterans. Onuoha served in the National Guard and saw duty in Kosovo, records show.

    His family had emigrated from Nigeria when he was still a child. His now-discovered writings and web postings reveal inner religious turmoil. He wrote of his fear Satan was trying to destroy him.

    Onuohu was known to where "religious robes" at the housing complex, but "he didn't talk religion that much," said Eddie Royal, a VA social worker who said he had been Onuoha's case manager.

    But Onuoha’s worldview became evident in his work last June, after a blog posting complained that a 15-year-old girl had been publicly shamed by a screener later identified as Onuoha.

    He upbraided her for clothing that revealed a portion of her midriff.

    The posting by the girl's father described the screener "glaring" at the girl before telling her, "'You're only 15. Cover yourself.'"

    The incident led to Onuoha being suspended for a week late in July, according to the FBI affidavit.

    Afterwards, Onuoha returned to work and continued working screening shifts until the end of last month, according to Nico Melendez, a TSA spokesman.

    This month, Onuoha did not return to work before submitting his resignation Tuesday. Afterwards, he delivered an eight-page letter addressed to a TSA manager.

    Later came phone calls to TSA screening locations and to LAX Police.

    "09/11/2013 there will be fire. Fear! Fear! Fear!" read the note found in Onuoha's apartment, according to the FBI affidavit by Special Agent David Gates.

    Onuoha told Gates he "meant that he intended to start preaching in the streets," Gates wrote.

    That explanation may be undercut by Onuoha moving out of his apartment and taking to the road, living out of his minivan. That could be seen as evidence of "consciousness of guilt," Kavinoky said.

    That would also mitigate against an insanity plea. But Kavinoky expects mental illness will become an element of the case.

    "Obviously, he's looking at significant prison time," Kavinoky said.

    But if there is a conviction, Kavinoky would expect any sentence to include provisions for mental health treatment.

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