Earlier this month, three New York area TSA employees were arrested in two separate incidents after being accused of stealing up to about $70,000 from airline passengers.
According to a statement by the US Attorney's Office in New Jersey, Michael Arato, a supervisor at Newark Liberty Airport, admitted in federal court that he accepted bribes and kickbacks from a coworker who stole money during security screenings at his checkpoint.
Prosecutors allege that Arato permitted a worker under his supervision to steal $10,000 to $30,000 in cash from travelers' bags over a 13 month month period, and that the subordinate shared some of the stolen money with Arato. Between September 13 and October 5, 2010, video surveillance captured Arato allegedly accepting approximately $3,100 in bribes. In addition to admitting that he took bribes related to his coworker’s theft, Arato also admitted that he regularly stole from passengers traveling through his checkpoint.
According to the Queens, NY District Attorney's office, two TSA employees at JFK airport, Davon Webb and Couman Perad, were arrested after being accused of stealing about $40,000 from apassenger's checked bag. The investigation began on January 30th of this year after another TSA agent contacted police after suspecting that the two agents had taken money. Coumar allegedly noticed cash after X-raying a passenger's bag. Webb allegedly marked it with tape, and later Coumar allegedly removed $40,000 from the bag. The bag had actually contained about $170,000. Police later found $16,000 in Webb's home and $23,980 in Coumar's home (he allegedly spent $20 on food).
Other TSA Thefts
This is not the first time that TSA employees have been accused of stealing from passengers. According to Bloomberg, TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis stated that between 2008 and 2010, 12 TSA officers lost their jobs due to thefts at security points or from checked baggage.
How to Protect Your Cash at the Airport
When you carry cash with you on an airline trip, you should take some very basic steps to keep from becoming a victim of theft.
- Avoid traveling with large amounts of cash.
- If you have to take cash, keep it in a carry on bag
- Keep your baggage and belongings in sight when passing through a security checkpoint
- If your carry on baggage must be searched, insist on keeping your bag in sight
- If asked about the contents of your baggage by a TSA agent or other responsible authority, tell the truth
- If you suspect that you have been a victim of theft, contact an airport police officer or other law enforcement representative immediately (note that TSA agents are not law enforcement agents)
- If you suspect that a TSA screener or other screening area employee has stolen your property, contact a supervisor
For more baggage tips, visit AirSafe.com's Baggage Basics page.