More than 60 government employees are facing scrutiny after an investigation revealed that a Federal Air Marshal program specialist was rearranging flight schedules to coordinate sexual trysts, possibly leaving high-risk flights without a marshal on board, according to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s multimedia platform Reveal.
The probe originally began as an internal investigation into harassment charges against Michelle D’Antonio, a 48-year-old program specialist with the Federal Air Marshal Service responsible for coordinating delayed, missed, or canceled flights and providing other logistical support. D’Antonio had allegedly been making harassing phone calls to the wife of a San Diego-based air marshal, Roy Duron, with whom D’Antonio had been having an affair. The service placed D’Antonio on administrative leave in December 2013.
As the investigation got underway, however, it soon uncovered a larger problem: According to current and former employees, D’Antonio had apparently been using her access to sensitive government databases in order to look up personnel files, ID photos, and flight schedules of certain air marshals she was interested in dating.
Tampering with the schedules in this way is a problem because armed air marshals ride commercial flights in order to serve as the first line of defense in cases of hijacking and terrorism. Priority is given to flights deemed “high risk” – usually those with long-distance routes that require a lot of fuel, or those with important passengers. Though the exact number of air marshals is kept secret, there are an estimated few thousand in the service.
The Transportation Security Administration’s Office of Inspection in San Diego has not confirmed or denied the existence of any investigation.