What began as an internal investigation of harassment by a Federal Air Marshal program specialist has turned into a larger investigation of rearrangement of flights for favors or to meet air marshals for “sexual trysts,” possibly leaving high-risk flights without air marshals.
A story by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s multimedia platform Reveal written by Andrew Becker reports that an original investigation began with Michelle D’Antonio, a program specialist for the Federal Air Marshal Service. Air marshals are trained government employees who fly on board commercial flights with a high risk of a terrorist attack or flights with important passengers. D’Antonio was responsible for coordinating delayed or missed flights and providing logistical support, and thus had special access to government records and files regarding the flights of air marshals.
According to Reveal, the internal investigation began when Lisa Duron, the wife of air marshal Roy Duron who has acknowledged having a four-year affair with D’Antonio, said she received harassing phone calls from D’Antonio after the relationship between D’Antonio and Duron fell apart in December 2013. D’Antonio was placed on administrative leave that same month.
In January 2014, the couple filed temporary restraining orders against D’Antonio, “stating they feared for their safety and were blackmailed,” which were later dismissed.
The investigation revealed that D’Antonio looked up files and flight schedules of air marshals she was interested in dating and at times rearranging flights to give others preferred treatment.
“I think she put the offer out to quite a few (federal air marshals) and managers, literally acting like a travel agent,” retired air marshal Sonya Hightower told Reveal. “I think a lot of people were aware she was doing some of these things, but no one wants to comment on it. If everybody’s getting hooked up, nobody’s going to say anything.”
Now, more than 60 government employees are under investigation as officials find if at-risk flights were left without air marshals. However, reporter Becker notes, the investigation remains focused on D’Antonio. Former and current employees say D’Antonio looked up “personnel files, identification photographs and flight schedules to pinpoint air marshals she was interested in meeting and possibly dating.”
The TSA has not confirmed or denied an investigation is taking place.
“However, TSA maintains a rigorous code of conduct for all of our employees, especially law enforcement personnel, and pursues appropriate accountability for violators of ethical standards and the law,” the TSA said in an email to Reveal.