GALVESTON

A former Port of Galveston employee is accused of using her port credentials to bypass security and COVID screening while boarding a cruise ship in December.

Cristina Galego, 53, of Galveston, was charged Wednesday with one count of criminal trespass of critical infrastructure facility and one charge of abuse of official capacity.

The charges stem from an incident at the Port of Galveston on Dec. 16, when Galego and two friends were attempting to board the Carnival Breeze cruise ship, according to a criminal complaint obtained by The Daily News.

Galego and her friends arrived at the cruise terminal about 2:25 p.m., just minutes before the cutoff for passenger screening for people boarding the ship, according to the complaint.

Galego dropped off her friends and told a terminal employee she was going to park her car and return to the screening area, according to the complaint.

Galego returned after the cutoff time and was denied entry at the public entrance, according to the complaint. Galego was told she couldn’t board the ship but upon being turned away told the terminal employee she would “find another way in,” according to the complaint.

Galego then walked to another doorway at the terminal and used a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC card, to open a secure door at the terminal, according to the complaint. She then presented a Port of Galveston identification to a security guard inside the terminal, according to the complaint.

The security guard told police he believed Galego was acting as a port employee, not a passenger.

Galego then used an elevator inside the terminal to bypass security and COVID screening, according to the complaint. She then contacted another port employee, Cruise Terminal Manager William Dell, to escort her to the check-in area of the terminal, according to the complaint.

Dell later told police he didn’t know Galego had bypassed security or medical screening and that it was typical for port employees going on cruises to be escorted to the front of the line at passenger check-in to expedite their boarding.

A police report released by the Port of Galveston Police Department shows the complaint about Galego was made by an employee of MLSBCC Cruises, a contractor that manages the cruise terminal for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Both charges are Class A misdemeanors, which carry a potential punishment of up to a year in county jail and fines of up to $4,000.

Port of Galveston Police Chief Kenneth Brown said the police department obtained a warrant for Galego’s arrest on Tuesday. Galego was listed in custody at the Galveston County Jail on Wednesday afternoon. Her bond was set at $3,000, according to jail records.

Under Texas law, trespass at a “critical infrastructure facility” charges can apply to people who without permission bypass physical barriers at a port or other type of secure facility.

Abuse of official capacity charges can be filed against a public servant who intentionally misuses government property or services they possess because of their job.

Galego had worked for the port since 2007. Her job title was public relations manager, and her duties included media relations, planning special events and assisting in marketing cruise and cargo development. Her salary was $80,000 in 2019, according to public records.

Galego resigned her position at the port Dec. 21, according to port officials. Port management informed port trustees about Galego’s resignation and a criminal investigation last week, after the port received inquiries from The Daily News.

Port trustees might discuss the charges at their meeting on Jan. 25, officials said

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter

@johnwferguson.

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(11) comments

Jack Cross

It's not clear, was she vaxed and because she was late used her credentials to join her friends or was she trying to get around the Covid requirements ?

Both would be violations, but the first is understandable.

Jim Forsythe

Jack, she bypassed the checkpoints that she had to stop at to be able to be on the cruise. Because she was a passenger not an employee for this cruise, she had to check in.

Galego used an elevator inside the terminal to bypass security and COVID screening, which she was not allowed to be skip.

Cruise Terminal Manager William Dell was convinced by Galego that she had been thru security and/or medical screenings.

Since she was going on the cruise as a passenger and not an employee, she misused used her TWIC card, by bypassing security and/or medical screening. When she mislead the security guard by letting him believe she was acting as a port employee, not a passenger she misused her TWIC card another time.

This is what got her in trouble, she intentionally misuses government property or services she possessed because of her job (TWIC card).

Jack Cross

jim you are repeating what was in the story. She was fired over security violations.

yes, she made mistakes, I don't know why they were late, but what would you have done, having planned a vacation, two friends already checked in, maybe with your baggage, then the check in is closed, and you have a security Clearence, would you have went back home. Since she already had security clearance, she was not a security risk, it was technical violation that does not deserve being fired after 20 years.

Gary Scoggin

Jack, I would have done what other passengers would have done: Kicked myself in the tail for being late and screwing up my vacation. Whether or not that is worthy of being fired is up to her bosses, not us mere GDN readers.

Ron Shelby

Its not as if she didn't know better. When she'd missed the "cutoff" by a few minutes, why didn't she simply contact Dell, the manager, to inquire as to how she could resolve the situation. (She contacted him later to escort her to the front of the line). Its clear she didn't even try the proper channels that she had access to. Sad.

Jarvis Buckley

This appears to be a little overkill to me. If her job evaluations show she was a dedicated employee. This would border on being ridiculous. Put her on a couple weeks of unpaid leave . Put the violation in her file.

The only victim here is her.

Jack Reeves

Exactly Jarvis! If the Port is that concerned about "security", they need to make sure that there are licensed Texas Peace Officers at critical points in the boarding areas as a deterrent. I think she would have been less inclined to pull this stunt if the last person she had to "fib" to was a cop.

Put her on unpaid leave for a month and she wouldn't do it again. It would have been more effective to meet her at the gangway with a couple of police officers and escorted her to the Port Director's office.

What a bunch of hooey!

Jack Cross

Agree, this is a complete overkill and does not justify being fired.

It's more about control than justice. I think the board should rethink this.

Ron Shelby

Employees of a public, or quasi public, entity are held to a higher level of ethics. Especially when you're also the spokesperson for that entity.

Jim Forsythe

Jack, she resigned.

As far as what I would have done, I would have followed the rules. She choose not to do so, when she bypassed security and COVID screening.

She faces one count of criminal trespass of critical infrastructure facility and one charge of abuse of official capacity because of her actions.

As a holder of a TWIC card in the past, I was responsible for following all the rules that came with the card. If I did not follow them, I may have been fired.

When she entered a restricted area using her TWIC card, when she was not on duty, in most cases she would have violated the terms she agreed to when the TWIC card was issued to her.

I guess you do know it requires a federal background check, before a TWIC card is issued.

Jack, you right it is about control, that why we have TWIC cards, to control entry to restricted areas. After 9-11 our security at all ports, refineries and such was looked at and it was determined that we had a huge problem. That why we have TWIC cards, that are required in those type of facilities. She knew the rules and the consequences for not following the rules, but still choose not to follow the rules.

This was not overkill, as she violated the law.

Terry Moore

I have to agree. The TWIC card was put in place after 9-11 for our country's safety. She used it for something other than her job. The cruise lines have responsibilities for the safety of their passengers. She was definitely low risk but where do you draw the line? I am just going by the story at hand that seems to elude to the fact that she lied her way through. That is a problem.

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