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