TSA Screener Stole Up To $700 A Day From Passengers

A Newark Airport TSA security screening supervisor was arrested by federal authorities for stealing cash from passenger’s carry-on bags.

The arrest came after a five-week investigation. The supervisor was also accused of accepting kickbacks and bribes from a co-conspirator who also stole cash from passenger bags. The pair allegedly targeted non-English speaking travelers, particularly women coming from India.

If you suspect theft from your baggage, file a police report and a complaint with the TSA.

Newark, NJ: Airport screener stole up to $700 a day from travelers, authorities say [Daily Record] (Thanks to Sean!)

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  1. Geekybiker says:

    Is this a surprise to anyone?

  2. obits3 says:

    That’s why I put my DNA on all my money…

  3. u1itn0w2day says:

    What is it about airport workers and theft. In south Florida it seems they uncover at least one major theft employee/ring a year.

    The funny thing even before 9-11 getting hired into the airline industry was no small feat especially be the late 90s/early 2k because of a slowing industry. Have you ever seen an application for an airline let alone the TSA.

    I don’t wether these employees turn bad or can’t resist temptation or they would be stealing anywhere they work. For some reason airport/airline work spurs alot of theft.

    Is it employee revenge against those pain in the butt fliers/customers or an attitude festered by management? Scandals like this endanger their own job securtiy.

    • crashman2600 says:

      Actually I have a friend that just got hired for the TSA. The process took about a year from application to the day she started training.

      • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

        My Fiance has applied to TSA and it has taken 2 years so far, he just got his final “medical clearance” a month ago, now he’s waiting on a final interview. Its NOT an easy or quick process, requiring multiple and extensive health/financial/personal background checks.

    • AngryK9 says:

      Nah, not revenge. For a petty larcenist, having a job as a TSA screener is pretty much an optimal situation.

      It’s pretty much a given that people will always keep in their luggage amounts of money, electronic gadgets, jewelry, and other small moderate to high value items that are nearly impossible to trace and can be sold off or used quickly. As a screener, the larcenist can search through peoples’ belongings and it won’t raise suspicions as it would if a ramp agent or flight crew member was going through a passenger suitcase. And, since the TSA is a federal agency, larcenists think that we simply trust that their luggage diving is being done for security reasons.

    • Conformist138 says:

      WHY would anyone spend so much time trying to get hired by TSA?? I mean, the pay is crap and the qualifications are barely beyond what it takes to get a private security license (which means being 18 and not a felon, completing a few hours of training, take a little test, get fingerprinted, and pay a fee).

      I mean, it’s not like I’ve ever seen any particularly polished TSA agents, seems like getting the job wouldn’t be a 1-2 year process.

      • sonneillon says:

        The pay is pretty good actually.

      • sonneillon says:

        The pay is pretty good actually. I think the security officers start out at a payband of D (in my area it is 31k a year) and can get up to E which pays better and they get fed experience which is more important because you can go from payband E in TSA to GS7 for a government division that is less stressful.

      • MrEvil says:

        The reason it takes so long to get hired on with the TSA is because they have to give you a frontal lobotomy and then they want to ensure they didn’t remove too much or too little of your brain.

        BADUM TISH!

  4. FatLynn says:

    Who on earth is putting cash in their bags? Sigh.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Well, international travelers spread out the cash because it’s safer. If your wallet or purse gets stolen, at least you have some back up money in the luggage.

    • Jennlee says:

      Most women I know carry cash in their purses, which are bags screened by TSA screeners.

      • FatLynn says:

        You’re right; it says carry-on. RTA fail on my part.

        I am really strict about this, myself. I do not walk through the security thing until I actually see my purse and laptop disappear into the tunnel, and then I stand right there on the way out until it magically reappears.

        • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

          Very smart, but if there is more than one employee splitting the take (and there probably would be, otherwise you risk being caught by someone who sees what you do all day), they can hold you up at the metal detector. But, like being jostled in a crowd, that’s a good cue to check your valuables thoroughly.

          The only safe thing to do is to just pull the bills out and take it through the metal detector with you. I often stick it in the ticket/ID/boarding pass holder I wear around my neck at the airport.

          • eb0nyknight says:

            In my experience as a frequent flyer, I have one of those as well. At Dulles IA, they always tell me it has to go in my bag. So no win, here in DC area.

        • erratapage says:

          I wish it were that easy. First, there’s the body scanner opt-out. Then, there’s the pat-down. Then, there’s the complaint I make, because the TSA agent groped me. By the time I’m through, my stuff has been sitting there for half an hour.

          In all seriousness, this possibility has been bothering me for some time. If I see that a fellow traveler has been held up, I usually watch their stuff while they are detained. I don’t like to see people screwed over by people who were probably just fired by Burger King. (No offense to people who have managed to keep their jobs at BK!)

    • Bob Lu says:

      I know many international students who brought tens of thousand dollars in their first trip to US, to pay college tuition and rental/deposit.

      Very often the money is in cash because they don’t have a bank account in US yet. I personally used traveler’s check, but many people chose to bring cash to avoid the fee.

      And since the amount is pretty big, you really can’t stash all the money in your pocket safely.

    • c_c says:

      Well i usually empty my pockets and put my wallet in my bag when putting it through the x-ray machine…

    • learned says:

      The TSA stole from my wallet

    • George4478 says:

      Unless you’re gluing the cash to your body, you’ve giving it to the TSA at some point.

      Personally, I pop my wallet into my laptop bag when I go through security, so I have cash in my bag when it gets to TSA.

  5. Skeptic says:

    Consumerist wrote:

    “Definitely avoid checking valuables and especially cash. If you suspect theft from your baggage, file a police report and a complaint with the TSA.

    It might help if Consumerist read TFA before giving advice:

    “The two security screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport stole up to $700 every time they worked, furtively grabbing hundred dollar bills from carry-on luggage belonging to women flying home to India, authorities said.

    The money was stolen from **carry-on** baggage, not checked baggage.

  6. danmac says:

    From the article: At one point, Arato allegedly said he didn’t mind stealing, saying he was angry at the women for “leaving this country with our money,” according to the complaint.

    We shouldn’t be angry at these noble TSA agents; they’re patriots!

  7. The cake is a lie! says:

    Thus the reason my cash is in a plastic money clip safe in my pocket when I go through security. The only valuables I ever have with me through security would be my watch, computer, phone, and mp3 player. It is pretty easy to check for all of those things when I get them through the other end because I put them all in the same bucket.

    Still, you have to be pretty clever to steal money out from carry on bags when the passenger is standing there watching you. The TSA reps I’ve seen are always going out of their way to make sure passengers can see their hands at all times and know their stuff isn’t getting swiped. I’m still not trusting my cash in a bag, but I haven’t had any bad experiences with security checking my carry ons. My checked bags, on the other hand, are an entirely different story… Shit goes missing from those all the time.

    • John B says:

      They’ll send suspected cash carriers for “random” secondary screening. Plenty of time to rummage through the bags in their absence.

    • squirrel says:

      It’s difficult to stand and watch when they shuffle you off to the virtual strip-search booth, you are away from your belongings for up to a minute.

      At some point you need to walk through that or the metal detector/explosives sniffer and they only need a new seconds to grab what they can.

  8. John B says:

    file ….. a complaint with the TSA.

    Don’t make me laugh.

    My luggage was opened in LAX (zip-tie removed), no note from TSA with agent # placed in the luggage to document the search (as required by law)

    TSA response to my request for investigation:

    “Please accept our appreciation for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns with us. Your help and support are important contributions to ensuring the safety and security of the Nation’s aviation system.”

    It’s a scam.

    • arcticJKL says:

      Or the baggage handlers stole it.

      Clearly come complaints got somewhere or no one would have investigated this case.

  9. ShruggingGalt says:

    How in the heck did they get access to carryons? Like another poster said, do this during secondary screenings? Or while they were waiting to go through the full body scanner?

    • freelunch says:

      Secondary screenings wouldn’t suprise me. One of my friends travels regularly for work, and keeps a record of how often he is ‘randomly selected’ for secondary screening. Last I heard, he was batting over .700

      He is Indian, and always travels in at least business casual attire… I am sure they every time he is ‘selected’ for screening, the other folks in line say “thank goodness it isn’t me!”.

  10. James says:

    Bags should never be out of your sight at security. I don’t go through the metal detector until they’re inside the scanner. If I’m requested to go to the glass lockdown area I’ll politely tell the screeners I need to wait for my bags.

    If I don’t see them I’ll loudly say “I need to see my bags” – and I always maintain line of sight with them 100% of the time.

    If they try and separate you – ask for a supevisor or (real) law enforcement office.

    Also when prepping I put my wallet and valuables, (passport, tickets) inside my small bag. (ok manpurse), which goes inside my carry on.

    It’s sad that you need the same level of precautions at US Airports as on a Costa Rican bus, but that’s just the way it is.

    • mikedt says:

      Is this a theory or have you actually done this? Because based on what I read about TSA agents and airport security in general, speaking loudly and asking for superiors doesn’t seem to end up well for the individual.

      • James says:

        I’ve never need to shout. But on the few times I’ve been separated and one has carried my bag from the end of belt to the “search” desk I’ve spoken up and said I need to see my bags.

        Read these posts – plenty of people have asserted their rights and not missed flights. Or so they say :)
        http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/travel-safety-security-222/

        • Peacock (Now In Extra Crispy) says:

          Somewhat OT…
          Sadly, I nearly missed a flight back in May when the 12 y/o TSA agent who was matching ID to the plane ticket decided that I no longer resembled my driver’s license. Even after I pulled every bit of ID out of my wallet–every credit card, my AAA card, my BC/BS benefits card, even my Costco membership card which has my picture on the back–she still refused to believe that the picture on my dl was that of me. She called over 2 other agents and basically tried to make the monkey (me, that is) dance. I wanted to go for her throat, but thought better of it, since I have no interest in spending any amount of time on the No Fly List.

          Finally, she ‘allowed’ me to get onto the security line.

          What was the point of this? Other than powertripping on her part?

          I now have to travel with my passport. Let’s see these bozos screw with the State Department.

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    But did the Agent make us safer? Because if he did it was all worth it.

    • The cake is a lie! says:

      Sure it does. People are getting only half the number of weapons through security that they used to get through.

      This whole heightened security thing is ridiculous anyway. It wasn’t stuff the terrorists snuck through security which caused the 9/11 planes to crash. They did everything they needed to do ON the plane WITH stuff already there. All the extra security did was cause massive delays while they were figuring it out and just make people paranoid. I’m actually shocked they even let us wear plain clothes on the plane and aren’t requiring everybody buy TSA approved jumpsuits to fly in… That is a serious comment too. I wonder if they just haven’t considered it yet.

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        I’ve always wanted to be on a plane with all nude people. You bring nothing on. Of course, that won’t even make a difference since these guys can just as easily plant a bomb while they steal a camera or pilfer from your luggage.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          You’re stealing Penn Jillette’s idea for an airline where everyone flies nude. Before you board, you have to eat a piece of bacon and kiss a same-sex employee (with a dental dam, one assumes).

          That covers pretty much every major religion’s taboos.

      • Rena says:

        Ssssshhhh, don’t give them ideas!

  12. maxx22 says:

    There is a solution. The airport should build a small platform with a chair in a heavy traffic area. The TSA guy should be given a choice – either he sits in the chair 8 hours a day, seven days per week for six months wearing a sign that says: I am a TSA screener and I stole from passsengers’ luggage – or he can go to military prison and spend 5 years at hard labor.

  13. benh999 says:

    Only $700/day? Must’ve been a slow five weeks.

  14. danmac says:

    One thing not mentioned in the summary – and it bears mention – is that the unnamed co-conspirator “worked with authorities” to nab the supervisor. So it sounds like the co-conspirator stole from people, bribed his supervisor, probably got caught, then rolled on his supervisor, and now he’s facing little or no punishment. I would like to know if he’s been allowed to keep his job, why he gets to remain anonymous, etc.

    And yes, I know it’s standard in “crime ring” investigations for some leniency to be granted to informants, but that doesn’t make this any less irksome.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      My guess is, his supervisor caught him. He bribed the supervisor to keep his job and his tax-free side income. Got annoyed he had to pay him a bigger and bigger cut. Turns in the manager, who points the finger at the grunt. Grunt rolls on manager. Feds take manager as a bigger fish aka ringleader. Grunt skips happily down the lane with a clean record and other federal jobs waiting.

  15. c!tizen says:

    At what point can we get rid of this stupid drain on our economy? There is no need for the TSA, none… they don’t do anything but delay people, piss off pilots, steal from passengers, and waste tax money. Mr. Obama, please take those fuckers down!

    • DarthCoven says:

      but then he’d be “weak on terr’ism!” and we can’t have that, nosiree! he’s already a dirty no good mooslim, can’t make it easier for his ay-rab friends to kill more REAL AMMURICANS!

      /s

    • Murph1908 says:

      I completely agree.

      Terrorists have 1000 other targets they could choose from. Why do we spend so much money and create so much inconvenience “protecting” planes when a differnet form of attack would be more likely?

      Keep safeguards such as locked cockpits in place, and using planes as weapons will not be a problem. If a terrorist gets a bomb onto a plane, he’ll take out 300 people or so. If he takes on onto a subway, or into a sports stadium, or to Times Square, or the Golden Gate Bridge, he’ll get just as many or more, and it will be just as ‘sensational’ as blowing up a plane.

      If he takes a gun or a knife on, he won’t be able to do much.

      And time and time again, we hear stories where the TSA is ineffective, untrustworthy, or both. All the while it costs us tons of money and time.

    • hansolo247 says:

      You’re asking Obama, the man that forced the nudie scanners on you?

      His civil rights record is worse than Bush’s

  16. oldwiz65 says:

    I’m more surprised that they are doing anything about it than by finding out that it’s happening in the first place. The TSA people need the money and other stuff. It is far far more surprising that they are actually trying to prosecute.

  17. Anonymously says:

    I saw some TSA employees let a bag fall on the floor from a conveyor and laugh about it. If I wasn’t afraid of being Gitmo’d I’d have said something about it. Thugs and thieves, the lot of them.

  18. fs2k2isfun says:

    Remember kids, this is just an “isolated incident” and the TSA uses “layers of security”.

    http://www.dontscan.me
    http://www.nudeoscope.com

  19. davere says:

    This is one of the reasons why you should always have direct eye contact with your belongings, whether you go through the naked scanner (whatever it is called) or you are having your junk touched by a TSA employee.

    If they ask you to do something which makes you lose line of sight with your belongings, speak up and complain if they don’t cooperate.

  20. ohiomensch says:

    I flew from Cleveland to Lax last week. I put my checkbook and wallet in my laptop bag, and I carried my actual cash in my pocket. when the screener asked if I had anything in my pocket I told him I had bills. He told me to hold the bills in my hand as I walked through the metal detector. Everything was fine and I got to keep my money.

  21. KrispyKrink says:

    Somewhere out there is a TSA dipstick that has my buddy’s service sidearm issued by the CHP. It was stolen out of his bag in 2005 when we were on our way to a law enforcement shooting competition.

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      That’s a good illustration of what an absurd joke airport security is. If someone can steal something, especially a pistol, from a checked bag and presumably get it out of the airport, it logically follows that the process can work in reverse. That is, someone can smuggle a weapon or a bomb into the airport, put it in a bag, and get it onto a plane.

      It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the next major act of terrorism to affect air travel is facilitated by an airport or airline employee. Of course, no one will be proactive about it because any real solution would impose new costs on the airlines and they have lobbyists to keep that from happening. Meanwhile, there’s a seemingly endless appetite to inflict all manner of indignities on the traveling public.

    • MrEvil says:

      See, I often figured that securing a firearm in your checked baggage was pretty much a guarantee that your bag wouldn’t get lost. I mean the last thing you think the Feds would want is a firearm running loose in the airport.

      The only reason I feel less safe when it comes to post 9/11 air travel is now I have to put up with a different breed of Terrorist at the airport….Terrorists employed by the United States Federal Government.

  22. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    I’ll give a Consumerist tip here: I’ve carried $30K in cash on board by tucking it in my socks. Make sure to fold the top of your socks in, trapping the cash inside. I consider this safer from TSA, pickpockets, or even mugging.

    • sufreak says:

      Where do you travel again?

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        China. Oh you should have seen the fun at the Chinese customs. They have to snap each bill three times as they count it. Inspect for counterfeits, marks, cuts etc. and then do it all again three times, then hand it to the next person to do all over again for verification. That week, they executed two or three people trying to smuggle US dollars _out_ of China.

        Up till recently, China has had ‘visitor’ money and ‘real’ money. The visitor money is only accepted in major tourist areas but where I was going, nobody had seen it before and it was treated like Monopoly money. (it was amusing to be the first white guy they’d seen) The ‘real’ money had a much better exchange rate on the black market. When Chinese nationals leave the country, they are only allowed to take a small amount of money, even when emigrating. They lose their life savings.

  23. vastrightwing says:

    I’m willing to forgo the security checks all together and go back to the days when people were allowed to hang out near the gate while their friends boarded the plane. All this none sense does not make me feel safe at all, it simply annoys me. Sure, I’m willing to take the risk. Why not? It’s still safer than driving. If people really start trying to smuggle weapons on planes, the passengers will become much more alert and the airlines may actually do something to make it safer.

    Even the Boston subway has annoying bag searches from time to time, and when they ask to check my bags, I politely ask if it’s necessary and can I not have them search my bags. They always ask me if I’d rather be worried about terrorism and I respond, it’s no worse than what you’re subjecting me to right now. I always get searched anyway and the cop always looks annoyed with me. But hey, at least they get to play with their bag sniffers and play with their dogs for an after noon annoying the passengers.

  24. Zclyh3 says:

    Another reason why you don’t put CASH in your carry-ons.

  25. jpdanzig says:

    For abusing the public trust in this way, they should give this guy a life sentence — with NO chance of parole…

  26. BelleSade says:

    I’m supposed to carry around about 5k with me next time I travel and I have no idea where to put it :-(

  27. dush says:

    I figured as they were giving your genitals an enhanced frisk they were also going through their pockets for valuables.

  28. maynurd says:

    It’s unfortunate that one or two people doing something like this can make the whole orginazation look bad. The vast majority of these people are honest and doing an honest days work despite whatever your personal opinions may be of the TSA. I’m sure that theft occured long before TSA ever came into existence, the difference is that now you have a government agency that everyone can blame it on. And before anyone out there says it, I do not work for the TSA.

  29. maynurd says:

    It’s unfortunate that one or two people doing something like this can make the whole orginazation look bad. The vast majority of these people are honest and doing an honest days work despite whatever your personal opinions may be of the TSA. I’m sure that theft occured long before TSA ever came into existence, the difference is that now you have a government agency that everyone can blame it on. And before anyone out there says it, I do not work for the TSA.

  30. PortlandBeavers says:

    I never put cash in one of those bins. One time someone told me to include it in the stuff in the bin and I just ignored him, left it in my pocket and got through OK.