A former Transportation Security Administration screening agent pleaded not guilty Thursday to a false imprisonment charge involving a woman who had been traveling through Los Angeles International Airport last year.
Johnathon Lomeli, 22, is charged with a felony count of false imprisonment by fraud or deceit.
In a declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant, Carlos Llamas with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force wrote that Lomeli told the woman — who had lost her identification and debit cards while traveling in Los Angeles — that she had to go to another room to answer additional questions and go through an additional search after she was patted down by a female TSA officer on June 4, 2019.
Lomeli told the woman that she had to show him her breasts to make sure she had nothing in her bra, and the woman subsequently complied with his instruction to lift her pants and underwear, according to the declaration.
He subsequently made a comment to the woman about having nice breasts, the declaration alleges.
Lomeli — who was released on $50,000 bond after being arrested Feb. 6 by Los Angeles police — is due back at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse April 10, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to allow the case against him to proceed to trial.
“TSA does not tolerate illegal, unethical or immoral conduct,” the TSA said in a written statement released one day after his arrest. “The behavior described in the state charging documents is unacceptable and an affront to the hard-working and committed members of our workforce. The individual charged with these crimes is no longer with the agency and we pledge to fully cooperate with the ongoing law enforcement investigation into this matter.”
In a written statement announcing the case, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, “Women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect everywhere. There is no excuse for this kind of alleged behavior. It’s not OK on the street, it’s not OK in our schools and it’s certainly not welcome at the airport. At the California Department of Justice, we’ll continue to do everything in our power to hold those who break the law accountable.”
The criminal case was filed as part of a joint effort involving the California Department of Justice, FBI, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Airport Police and the TSA.