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Los Angeles Baggage Handler Bust Latest in a String of Incidents


Most people do not worry about their checked bag after it disappears down the conveyer belt, all of their belongings safely tucked away out of sight and mind. Just how safe are those belongings, though?

Over the last several months, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated what is being referred to as one of the largest heists in airport history. On Wednesday evening, a joint task force detained 14 people. Six have since been arrested, and LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon suspects as many as 25 could be involved.

“They’d just open up the suitcases and rifle through them and pocket valuables,” Gannon said, going on to explain the thieves targeted electronics, jewelry and other things that could be “stolen in seconds.”

Menzies Aviation, the employer of the detained baggage handlers and suspects, has since released a statement detailing how they believe the alleged thefts were “limited to a handful of employees, acting independently.”

LAX police reported a 37 percent increase in luggage thefts in 2013. While a sizable portion of that percentage resulted from unattended items, Gannon admits baggage handlers were partially responsible. “At any airport there are always thefts of baggage,” he maintained.

Just last month, musician Raj Pandit spotted a Jet Airways baggage handler digging through his luggage after his flight landed in Mumbai. He shared a picture of the transgression on Twitter, tagging the airliner and asking if the handlers had the authority to open his luggage after it had been screened. Pandit later reported that none of his belonging had been stolen, but Jet Airways never acknowledged his direct tweets.

Checked bags are not the only target for thieves. Earlier this month, five John F. Kennedy International Airport baggage handlers were charged with stealing more than $27,000 in mail they were supposed to load onto international flights. They deposited checks and money orders directly into their personal accounts, and used stolen credit cards to purchase iPads from kiosks in the airport. All five face at least one charge of criminal possession of stolen property, petit larceny and forgery.

Also facing charges is a United Airlines baggage handler who took advantage of tragedy. Sean Sharif Crudup and his wife, Raychas, plead no contest to grand theft and possession of stolen property earlier this month. Both stole luggage from passengers scheduled to fly into San Francisco International Airport, whose flights were diverted following the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214.

In light of the recent series of arrests, LAX travelers have expressed their safety concerns. They describe the situation as troubling, especially with how secure airports are supposed to be. One traveler, Brian Cushing, told the Los Angeles Times that he deliberately avoids checking his bags, noting that even if he locked his valuables inside, a thief could easily cut it. When asked about the recent arrests he said, “Surprising? No. Disturbing? Yes.”

[Photos: iStock / @rajpandit17]

Comments are Closed.
balihai March 31, 2014

Good, I have known several people to have had stuff stolen out of LAX, Including myself.

RigpigMalta March 29, 2014

Just goes to show how important that security screening for airline ground handling employees post 9/11 really is. All the security pax have to go through means nothing if a ground handler can steal or "deposit" something inside your checked bag!