Thieving TSA Agent Serves As Reminder To Not Carry $5K In Your Coat

See, this is why smugglers duct tape their contraband to their chest and groin — so that a rogue TSA agent doesn’t simply swipe it from their coat as it goes through the security checkpoint.

But this is a lesson a traveler had to learn the hard way yesterday at JFK International Airport in New York City.

According to authorities, a TSA screener pilfered $5,000 in cash from a traveler’s coat as it made its way down the conveyor belt that goes through the X-ray scanner thing they use to not detect guns, knives and box cutters.

Around 8 p.m. ET last night, the screener is alleged to have gotten his sticky fingers on the cash, which he then wrapped in a plastic glove and took to the bathroom, where the money vanished.

Cops are looking into the possibility that the TSA screener handed the money off to another nogoodnik and that there isn’t a teleportation device through which the money could have been transported in that particular airport bathroom.

Police: TSA agent at JFK stole $5K from passenger [WSJ.com]

Thanks to Jessie for the tip!

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  1. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    Luckily, this is an isolated incident. Just like all the other TSA thefts.

  2. zep says:

    “there isn’t a teleportation device through which the money could have been transported in that particular airport bathroom.”

    Uh, has NO ONE seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Yeesh.

  3. Jfielder says:

    Well, the agent put the money in a glove…. they probable stuffed up their wazoo?

  4. eturowski says:

    Not blaming the OP, just trying to give advice to anyone who might be reading:

    1.) Never let your belongings leave your direct sight at the checkpoint.
    2.) Always check your possessions to make sure your valuables are still present BEFORE you leave the checkpoint area – especially if you receive a pat down.

    On another note, I am amazed that the video footage of this actually surfaced.

    • Coffee says:

      I get pretty tired of people blaming the OP whenever someone steals something from them at the airport. Were there precautions that the OP could have taken in retrospect? Yes, but I find it highly problematic when people’s response to victimization is “You weren’t vigilant enough about not becoming a victim.” This attitude is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from rationalizing crime because of a “she got what she deserved” mentality.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        I agree, but it might also be good to think about how we could prevent this from happening to us (except with our $50 crumpled ball of damp singles instead). I know I would leave cash in my pants pocket, since it won’t set off a metal detector…as long as I wasn’t using my rhinestone-studded money clip.

        • Coffee says:

          Oh, I’m not saying that it isn’t smart to take precautions to protect yourself, only that people who are too naive to take such precautions shouldn’t be blamed for getting robbed (not that eturowski did that in this case). I just always cringe when I hear that line of thinking because it reminds me of – and this is an extreme example – stories I’ve read about how hard it is to convict rapists because “She should have known not to walk alone through a parking lot at night.”

          It all comes back to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis

        • bluline says:

          If you go through the strip-search machine, you aren’t allowed to have even a single piece of paper in your pocket, much less a large roll of bills. The only alternative is to request the aggressive body-grope pat down. But that would be better than losing $5 grand in cash.

          Speaking of which, anyone carrying that much cash is likely to draw the attention not just of the TSA, but of the local police as well. Although there is no law prohibiting anyone from carrying large amounts of cash (unless you are leaving the country), LEOs tend to assume that it’s drug money and often will confiscate it, forcing you to go through a long, frustrating, and sometimes futile effort to prove that the cash had a legitimate origin and purpose.

          • dakeypoo says:

            There are not law enforcement officers present at any TSA screenings I’ve ever been at, and I travel often. No TSA drone is going to place his/her grimy hands on my cash.

    • Coffee says:

      Fuck…I didn’t see the “not” as the first word of your first sentence and read it as “blaming the OP…”

      • eturowski says:

        LOL… Nah, I hate the TSA and think they need to be de-funded. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The root of the problem in this case was definitely the TSA screener, not the passenger.

    • j2.718ff says:

      Unfortunately, item 1 is getting more and more difficult. Your belongings go through x-ray, while you go into the backscatter box. It’s rarely possible to watch your stuff from there.

      And I am always told I can’t have any objects while in the backscatter scanner – I’m told even a piece of paper in my pocket is no good.

      • eturowski says:

        That’s an easy problem to solve – don’t use the backscatter. For many reasons.

        • j2.718ff says:

          Is that an option?

          Once I was pulled aside for additional screening. A TSA agent took one of my shoes, and walked somewhere out of my sight to run a further test on it. I suspect opting out of the backscatter scan would be a similar situation, where one or more items of my possession would be out of my sight.

          • eturowski says:

            You can opt out of the blue backscatter machine (or the gray millimeter wave scanner, for that matter) and request a pat down instead. Tell the screener at the scanner, “I opt out.” You stand next to the scanner and are ushered into the sterile area by a screener, and you are positioned at the end of the carry-on X-ray belt for your pat down so you can maintain visual contact with your belongings. It is an imperfect solution, but it allows you to keep track of your stuff – and keeps you out of machines whose hazards have not been completely evaluated.

            • EllenRose says:

              I would be tempted to say “I had too much radiation when I was in grad school. No scanner. On the other hand, I haven’t been properly felt up in years.”

              On the other hand, that would probably get me on a List.

    • Costner says:

      Actually I’m not at all surprised when video footage of these types of events surfaces, because the thieves are generally low level employees and don’t have the network in place to bribe the senior level employees and management who have access to the videos. Plus, in the modern world where all the video is stored on DVR tech, chances are there is a fingerprint if anyone would try to alter or delete it.

    • bben says:

      Having been the victim of more than one of the TSAs various way of embarrassing the traveling public while not contributing anything to real safety. Keeping your property in direct view is just not possible. As already said, You are ordered to remove everything except your clothing (next step in humiliating the traveling public?) – including your wallet and any paper in your pockets.You are then ordered to face in a particular direction – usually with your back to your possessions that are supposedly inside of the x-ray machine and accessible only by TSA. If you opt (or are selected) for the grope, then you may be placed into a holding area (where you may or may not be able to see your stuff) while your possessions are allowed to sit exposed on the belt for anyone to pick over.

      Then, if TSA finds you are carrying more than a couple of hundred in cash, you will be escorted to an interview room where you will be asked to explain why you need real money (cash) when you are traveling. Anything over a few thousand is likely to be confiscated as suspected drug money by a local representative of the law. Leading to 1. Not having the cash you needed when you get to your destination, and 2. Having to go through the hassle of proving you are innocent of some unspecified crime that you were not arrested for to maybe (if you are lucky) get your cash back in a minimum of 6 weeks.This happened to a business associate who was carrying over 6,000 cash to open a bank account in Guyana. He had been told that electronic funds could take up to 3 weeks to clear and he should bring enough cash to open the account and have the money available immediately. He did eventually get the money back, but it took a lawyer.

  5. Shorebreak says:

    I don’t trust them at all. I put my paper money in my pocket and proceed through the machine with no problem.

    • dourdan says:

      true. paper money does not set off any alarms (i keep my money with me as well), but i guess a 5,000 dollar roll might have been too much to stick in a pocket.

  6. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    Does anyone wonder why someone carries 5k in cash? I wonder if this is like the guy who got “mugged” for his Oprah tickets.

    • Cat says:

      I really don’t understand how we allowed the government to take away our right to do as we please with whatever amount of money we wish to carry.

      • Jane_Gage says:

        It’s a personal responsibility thing. I just had 100 stolen from my desk–a donation for supplies. The person who took it has keys, which means it’s a co-worker or maintenance staff person, someone with no compunction about stealing from kids, since it was in an envelope designated as such. It sucks, but you can’t walk around here at night, you shouldn’t ever carry cash, you should never leave a radio/valuables in your car, and if you’re under the age of 30 and have it going on, you should cover up.

      • Snowblind says:

        Because if they can’t, the terrorists win.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

        I just worry about losing it/having it stolen.

    • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

      Well since the OA says they have video of the TSA person doing this, I would say at least some cash was involved here.

    • PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

      Why not? I mean, it is their money.

      Seriously, one can argue all they want about carrying cash not being the safest option, but I’ve run into the situation where I drove to Chicago, tried to use my card and the bank froze it for suspicious activity (because my card was being used out of state). Thankfully, I had some cash on me until I got things straightened out.

    • Costner says:

      To answer your question… no.

      There are unlimited reasons why someone would have that amount of cash. It could be a result of not trusting banks, could have been from a used car he sold, could have been gifts for a birthday, graduation, wedding. Could be the result of a succesful craigslist purge of useless crap.

      Or… it could be similar to the situation from a few years back when a Ron Paul campaign staffer had piles of cash from a fundraiser and he was transporting it back to headquarters.

      $5,000 isn’t a ton of money…. now if the guy had $2M strapped to his body I might ask questions, but frankly the TSA should stay out of the business of attempting to prevent money laundering and they should focus on their core duty of trying to protect passengers and increase security.

    • Murph1908 says:

      When I go to Vegas, I carry a decent amount of cash. Not 5K, but if my budget were a bit higher for my trip, I’d do it.

      Sure, ATMs are everywhere, but I prefer to withdraw at my bank at home to avoid fees. There’s also the mental aspect of playing with only what I brought, and not withdrawing any more.

    • Murph1908 says:

      When I go to Vegas, I carry a decent amount of cash. Not 5K, but if my budget were a bit higher for my trip, I’d do it.

      Sure, ATMs are everywhere, but I prefer to withdraw at my bank at home to avoid fees. There’s also the mental aspect of playing with only what I brought, and not withdrawing any more.

    • Darrone says:

      For 5,000 $1 hookers, or 1 $5,000 hooker, depending on your personal tastes.

    • bluline says:

      I don’t. It’s none of my business and there’s no law against carrying an unlimited amount of cash. If it’s legal, why question it?

    • KyBash says:

      There are dozens of legitimate reasons to carry that much cash.

      The first that comes to mind is the cash-only auctions which the government regularly stages. The cops will bust you if they find you carrying $10K because that’s how drug dealers do business, but buy a $15,000 car at some police auctions, and you have to pay in cash.

      If you’re flying into a city with the intention of buying rare stamps or coins, cash is the best alternative — you’ll pay through the nose for credit card surcharges or ATM fees in a strange city.

      Some stores which sell vintage auto parts are starting to demand only cash — they consistently get burned with stolen credit cards or phony certified checks, and since it’s high-value items without serial numbers and which look exactly like 20,000 other ones, there’s no hope of recovery.

      The list goes on and on.

      • MrEvil says:

        As someone who has been to government auctions, there’s no such thing as a “cash only” sale with the government. The auctioneer conducting the sale will always accept a check with a bank letter of guarantee dated the day before the sale.

        Basically you go to your bank, tell them your spending limit for the sale, they can put a hold on funds on your account to pay on a specific check #. They then provide a letter that guarantees that check, written by you, with your account # is valid for up to that amount for up to X number of days after the sale.

        It’s similar to car shopping with pre-arranged financing. Except in that case you get a letter of credit.

        • KyBash says:

          I was at one in September, 2011. It was cash only. No checks, no credit cards, no nothing but currency.

          Nothing sold for less than $6,500.

  7. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Theft
    Sanctioning
    Agency

  8. Jim M says:

    All I keep thinking is lipstick on a pig.

  9. ElleAnn says:

    From the article, it appears that the screener was not a “he.” Her name is Alexandra.

  10. longfeltwant says:

    #isolatedincident

  11. keith4298 says:

    I guess no one had an iPad that day?

  12. Mit Long says:

    In her defense, how was she supposed to know that there are security cameras at the airport…near the security checkpoints…where she presumably works 40 hours a week.

    I guess I should be glad that most criminals aren’t that smart.

  13. Ilovegnomes says:

    TSA should be there to keep the public safe. This story shouldn’t be a reminder not to have money or belongings on you when you fly. It should be a red flag that this is yet another story reminding us that TSA has turned into a government funded terrorist organization that harasses and steals from the flying public. It’s time to put an end to it!

  14. legion says:

    Paging Larry Craig… Larry Craig to the white courtesy phone…

  15. duncanblackthorne says:

    DISBAND THE TSA NOW!!!

  16. CelticWhisper says:

    It’s an unconnected bad-apple incident. The actions of this one rogue Officer do not reflect on the professionalism of TSA’s other thousands of security Officers who work hard to keep America safe.

    Or something.

    http://i.imgur.com/w774k.jpg

  17. ancientone567 says:

    TSA= Thieving Stealing Assholes!

  18. Sad Sam says:

    this is why they are yelling take everything out of your pocket, even paper, even a tissue, etc. before they send them thru the radiation machines.

  19. ahecht says:

    A little more detail is available from the NY Post at http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/tsa_screener_arrested_for_swiping_gKVIVPLbeYbzmGeFXcFXXN and Metro at http://www.metro.us/newyork/local/article/1087236–alexandra-schmid-newark-tsa-agent-arrested-for-stealing-5k-from-passenger :

    “Schmid is also being investigated in connection with other thefts of the same manner at the airport.

    On Monday, federal officials launched a probe into security operations at the airport. Eight workers were suspended for misconduct including stealing, sleeping on the job, or failure to properly screen baggage, according to the New York Post. “

  20. CreditSense-CreditRecovery says:

    That’s why I always carry anything over $4,000 in cash in a place they can’t get their hands on it.

  21. dogmaticman says:

    lol. It was just yesterday that I read an article about a TSA agent stealing 8 iPads—after which TSA responded this was an isolated incident…and then exactly 1 day later…

  22. Greg Ohio says:
  23. axiomatic says:

    TSA…. high school diploma…. optional. Most of these TSA people couldn’t secure a loan, much less an airport.

  24. dush says:

    Wow, suspended, not just administrative leave. You go gettem TSA!

  25. Extended-Warranty says:

    The TSA bashing here is disgusting. The only hire degenerates, right?

    No other employee of any other group would have taken $5k if gotten the chance, right? This person is going to be brought to justice. Grow up America.

  26. oldwiz65 says:

    Is anyone surprised at these stories anymore? They steal valuables from checked baggage (granted you have to be stupid to put valuables there), steal cash, steal anything they can get their hands on, fondle young girls (what about boys – are all the TSA agents straight?), think your insulin pump is a gun, etc.

    Where do they hire these people? Do they have a hiring booth set up outside prisons?

  27. farker says:

    A friend of mine got a $100 bill she had stashed as emergency money in her camera bag. (I know, not a smart plan). I told her she was lucky her $1500 camera didn’t vanish.