TSA Screener Helped Himself To $200,000 Worth Of Your Stuff

Meet Pythias Brown. Until recently, he was a TSA screener at Newark airport, and if you’re missing any pricey electronics, you might have Mr. Brown to thank for it. He’s accused of stealing more than $200,000 worth of electronics, including a $47,000 camera from HBO. Oddly, it was CNN that helped bust the “one man crimewave” when an employee noticed some of their equipment being sold on eBay.

As you can see from the above screen grab, Mr. Brown, like so many other eBay thieves, practiced excellent customer service. His customers claimed to be “in love” with him, thanks to his prompt delivery and “good communication.” One customer remarked that the camera he bought was missing its instructions. Guess the owner didn’t pack them.

Mr. Brown’s bail has been set at $100,000. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted. The TSA is reportedly taking the matter “seriously.”

Bail set at $100,000 for airport baggage screener
TSA agent helped himself to a $47,900 camera (and more!) [Gadling] (Thanks, Geoffrey!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jabberkaty says:

    So, getting ripped off by the airlines AND security. Mmm… Jail time.

  2. mazda3jdm says:

    it figures i wonder if he has any macbook airs

  3. Ein2015 says:

    Well this certainly is NOT surprising. Who would have thought… keeping your valuables locked to everybody BUT the TSA might still allow them to be stolen!

  4. twophrasebark says:

    Yeah, but the TSA is very good at stopping you from bringing a Snapple on your flight.

    Why should this incident decrease our confidence in the TSA? After all, it’s not their job to prevent stealing. It’s their job to prevent, um, what’s their job again?

  5. YourTechSupport says:

    Maybe someone in the DoJ will notice the Bush Administration auctioning our rights, freedoms, and economy on Ebay.

  6. aloe vera says:

    Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me at all.

  7. TheBusDriver says:

    How do you go through security, unload you laptop, go through the metal detector (secretly hope to get patted down – oh, did I say that out loud?), and then ‘forget’ to repack your valuable electronics? I blame the customer.

  8. The_Red_Monkey says:

    I would be surprised if they were paid more than 10 bucks an hour. You get what you pay for.

    • YamiNoSenshi says:


      No, we get what the government/airlines pay for. The people setting wages aren’t getting their stuff stolen, the common people traveling are.

      • LibertyReign says:


        I think maybe if the AIRLINES paid for security it would be expected to actually make travelling more secure(including the property of customers). This is how the market works. if you airline gets blown up and all your customer’s belongings are stolen by your employees you will probably lose alot of business unless of course you’re in America. We’ll take just about anything with a little bit of vaseline.

        What we get with TSA IS what WE pay for. After all, the government owns, cteates, and earns NOTHING. All that money they spend is our money. ;-)

    • Nofsdad says:

      @The_Red_Monkey: A hell of a lot of people out in the real world don’t get paid more than $10 an hour. How does that excuse them from having to obey the same laws everybody else does?

      • crashfrog says:

        @Nofsdad: It doesn’t excuse them, but the kind of person who’s inclined to obey the law and act courteously and efficiently tends to price themselves out of the $10 range.

        • HFC says:

          @crashfrog: Nice generalization. So, most people who work at or below $10/hour are rude, lazy criminals? Good to know.

          • LibertyReign says:


            i think getting paid less than $10 an hour in an economy where a dollar is worth about 4 cents tends to ENCOURAGE people to steal in order to make a real living. Just my opinion though.

          • Petrol42 says:

            @HFC: Not most people who make under $10 are rude, lazy criminals but ALOT of them are. Employee theft is in most cases worst then shoplifters. I work in the hotel industry and I see alot of behind the scenes stuff like housemen stealing a case of soda to a house keeper stealing microfiber cloths. Also, employees everywhere I worked stole some kind of thing or another from the places where I was making under $10/hour. And as far as being lazy, have you ever gotten great, or even good service at a place like Best Buy or Toys R’ Us or Walmart or….you get the idea. Its rare to get good service nowadays when the employee is paid under $10/hour.

    • shepd says:


      Myself and plenty of others here have worked for very little (less than $10/hr even!) and none of us have considered breaking the law at work.

      Being lazy/useless because your wages don’t motivate you is one thing (not commendable, but psychologically understandable). Breaking the law, stealing other people’s stuff is another (wrong and deserves zero compassion).

      He’s not even being lazy, he’s actually working harder just to steal stuff and sell it! :-(

      • LibertyReign says:


        Maybe that’s the point? Theft is more lucrative and more worth the effort. I think that’s at the very least how the thief sees it.

  9. whatdoyoucare says:

    How did no one (including his co-workers) at the airlines notice him walking out with laptops or movie cameras? Maybe it’s time to screen the screeners.

    • shaken_bake says:

      How did no one notice? Because all his co-workers were too loaded up with their own hauls. It will be time to “screen the screeners” when one of them allows a bomb on a flight. It’s hard to believe this hasn’t happened already. That’s what you get when you hire a bunch of 7-11 rejects to keep us “secure.”

    • TrevorYYC says:


      This new New Jersey were talking about, you could taxi a DC-9 home and everybody would swear they didn’t see nothing.

      • docrice says:

        It’s easy to hide this kind of stuff – we had a janitor stealing stuff at our retail store by hiding it in trash bags full of paper towels. Take them out to the loading dock, good stuff in your car, trash bag in the dumpster, and everything is gravy. You could conceivably be sneaky about this…but stealing a camera from a major news station and putting it on ebay isn’t the best way to do that.

    • saury316 says:

      @whatdoyoucare: i totally agree. my parents are in the watch manufacturing business, and we had about 1000 watch samples (read: not working, just dummy samples), of various materials weighing a total of about 80 pounds stolen while flying from Chicago O’Hare to Miami. No one has a clue where they went… but *someone* managed to walk out with all of that without being noticed?? really??
      (btw.. they only took the watches… they sent an empty suitcase on the plane to miami to my parents..and this was on United)

      • West Coast Secessionist says:

        @saury316: Dude, it would be awesome to watch them try to get those samples working. Or even better if they eBayed them without testing ’em and got F’d in the A by Paypal.

    • LibertyReign says:


      “..time to screen the screeners”

      I propose a new government agency who’s purpose will be to watch over said government agency. I’m sure this is alogical way to approach the problem. Everyone knows that when government fails the solution is MORE government.

      I also propose that we pay them LESS than we pay TSA employess, thus improving the economy by saving on tax-payer monies!

      Man.. I’m a genius.. Move over Obama!

  10. INsano says:

    Reason #4725 not to put yourself through the Gestapo circus at the airports.

  11. zentex says:

    Wasn’t it the TSA that said “Our employees don’t take things from your baggage”? (which we all know is BS)

    I thought there was a post here this year that had that quip in it…

  12. MayorBee says:

    But then who screens the screener’s screeners? IMO, there were a lot of people either in on the scam or just didn’t care.

  13. SpdRacer says:

    Like the government hasn’t helped itself to enough of our stuff!
    (Woo, saw this yesterday afternoon and sent in this tip!)

  14. backbroken says:

    Yeah…a couple of years ago I lost my first iPod nano somewhere between Gatwick and Newark. I doubt it unzipped my suitcase, climbed out onto the wing, and parachuted to safety over Greenland.

  15. twophrasebark says:

    I heard they are stealing the terrorist’s stuff, too. WTF.

  16. SkokieGuy says:

    Yup, the TSA denies claims, denies any significant amount of theft occurs, and will no doubt describe this man as an “isolated incident”.

    It’s obvious that he was working in collusion with others and others are doing the same thing.

    How sad that yet another government agency, designed to protect us, is so inadequate that they cannot even manage themselves. And despite the outcry of thousands of travelers who have reported thefts, an outside force (bless you CNN) had to uncover this blatant level of criminal activity.

    Perhaps our next President will acknowledge what everyone in the airline industry and most frequent travelers know – that TSA is largely security theater. With our economy in free-fall, perhaps our precious tax dollars can be spent in a more effective way of actually deterring terrorism.

    • tmlfan81 says:

      @SkokieGuy: You would think but likely they won’t do a thing about it as it isn’t high enough on the priority scale to drop whatever it is they are essentially not doing to do anything about this.

      I flew for the first time in 15 years two weeks ago. It wasn’t an awful experience by any means – I believe I was coming and going during off-peak times so I was able to get “in and out” just fine. The TSA folks didn’t seem to worried about me or my belongings, and I had my baggage checked. (Which now I understand why people don’t enjoy that after seeing how rough my baggage looked after I picked it up from baggage claim) It will be a good long while (4-6 months depending on my employer) before I venture out by plane again. Next time, I’m doing the carry-on thing and buying things at the local Walgreens that I cannot carry on.

    • Difdi says:

      @SkokieGuy: I recall a movie (I forget the title), where a guy’s car gets stolen and he’s unworried. His friend can’t understand why he’s so calm about it, and asks how he plans to find his car, so he leads his friend up on the roof, hauls out a remote control of some sort (w/ telescoping antenna) and hits the button. Waaaaay off in the distance across the city, a building suddenly erupts into a gigantic fireball. The guy says to his friend “Found it.”

      That, of course, would be illegal as hell, especially as a checked luggage item. But given how some laptops have a marked proclivity for it, it wouldn’t be hard to wire up a laptop so an incoming call on the cellular modem shorts the battery. Might be interesting as a way to prevent a thief from profiting from his theft…

      • azntg says:

        @Difdi: Making sure to irrepairably damage the laptop too, I hope, if you’re going this route.

        A battery short can simply be replaced with a new battery (or the charger cable you conveniently included in your carry-on)

      • dweebster says:

        @Difdi: Yeah, that’ll go over just fine with the 80% of TSA that aren’t thieving…

    • LibertyReign says:


      Uhh yeah..I don’t think so..

      The next President is going to be Obama. He is definately not goin gto scale BACK government..

      Not to mention..since when should the president have any say whatsoever as to how we travel? This fascist bullshit is really getting depressing..

  17. JeffMc says:

    Guys, you don’t understand how this is keeping us safe.

    The theory here goes something like this:
    TSA workers steal all electronics from checked baggage.
    Bombs are electronics.
    TSA workers will steal the bombs meant for the plane while stealing the other goodies.
    TSA worker takes iPod, cameras, laptops and bombs home.
    TSA worker blows up.
    TSA worker < plane full of travellers.

    These are the real heroes people!

  18. AnnRullus says:

    Nothing new here. I used to work at JFK Airport in the early 90s, mostly in baggage. We’d go through the lost bags and remove electronics to lock up for safekeeping. Many times those electronics didn’t make it to the storage bin. It was an open secret you could give the ramp guys a shopping list and expect to get your goods.

  19. Kuonji says:

    TSA stole my wife’s camera. She shouldn’t have packed the camera in checked luggage but regardless, it’s not right. I filed a claim with them and it was promptly denied.

  20. anonymousryan says:

    My mom’s luggage disappeared when she flew into Newark last December. I don’t think she had anything of value in it, though. (I actually think someone just stole it off the luggage carousel because it was a pretty nondescript bag.)

    Either way, if you fly enough you’re sure to get something stolen.

  21. Swizzler121 says:

    wait… his bail is only half the amount of his stolen goods? that doesn’t seem correct…

  22. TheFuzz53 says:

    Somebody in Newark stole something? Get the hell out of here!!

  23. Adisharr says:

    The thief should have his next proctology exam done with a hot poker.

  24. ideagirl says:

    I hate to sound smarmy, but why, in this day and age, would people still be packing expensive electronics in their luggage? If I can’t fit in in my carry on, I don’t take it. I guess they are more trusting than I am : )

  25. narcolepticdoc says:

    So… let me get this straight.

    He steals $200,000…

    Gets caught.

    Bail is set at $100,000.

    So…. if he skips bail, he’s still $100K ahead?

    • mac-phisto says:

      @narcolepticdoc: actually, i think you only need 10% (+ the juice) for a bail bond, so in actuality, he’d be $190k ahead if he skips off.

      of course, he’d forever be chased by mulleted men & their wackadoo wives.

  26. starbreiz says:

    It absolutely kills me that TSA doesn’t police themselves at all. My mom had 3 bottles of medicines stolen out of her luggage between PIT and SJC. Luckily she had enough spares in a case in her purse to get her through the visit, but it could have been life threatening. TSA of course, denied everything and was unwilling to help. You’d think all of these ‘isolated incidents’ would start to form a pattern.

  27. zanthia says:

    What happens to all the people that bought the stolen goods? I mean… Ebay has all their information, right? Do they have to give it back?

  28. Miss Pontificating says:

    I was in Denver, and was rushed through security. As I was putting my boots on, I noticed they did not give me a large gold bracelet my grandmother left to me. I had to ask for it back. Well, I had not told anyone off like that in a long long time.

  29. SuruchiEpaphus says:

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    This has become a forgotten phrase these last eight years. No, I don’t blame Mr. Bush for some low-life thief, but it’s just one symptom of the disease.

  30. NotYou007 says:

    A theif is a theif is a theif. Doesn’t matter if they make min wage or make 500K a year.

    There are theifs in almost every type of job on this planet. This does not surpise me one bit this happened, nobody should be shocked by this and just because he worked for the TSA means nothing.

    Some of our most trusted officials in Gov. have lied and stolen from us. 200K is chump change.

  31. angelcake88 says:

    I think since this isn’t the first or last case of ramapant theft, these TSA people and baggage handlers for that matter, need to be patted down before entering work, inventory of personal items and carried items made, signed, and then patted down and everything checked when finishing work for the day. If there’s more than what was there earlier, like suddenly an ipod or laptop, off they go to jail and the owners of the stolen items located. And just so the TSA isn’t covering their own butts and conducting their own patdowns, I think the police should be doing it.

    • MikeGrenade says:

      @angelcake88: If the TSA actually represented some sort of security force they would already have procedures like this in place to avoid an inside job. Avoiding theft would be a bonus.

      Unfortunately they’re just there to put on one big, obnoxious show. Federal rent-a-cops.

  32. peggyhill says:

    I work for a production company with equipment similar to CNN and we have had entire vans of equipment ripped off from hotels around EWR

  33. ZzFDKzZ says:

    Every org/company have scum bags.

  34. malcs says:

    Good on the CNN employee spotting it on ebay!

  35. cccdude says:

    I wonder if he left a little note in the luggage that said “This item has been opened, inspected and pilfered by TSA”.

    I think this is a fairly wide-spread problem. I had one “inspected” bag that was missing some candy I had packed. I’m guessing it ended up in the TSA break room.

    • zanthia says:

      @cccdude: well… what if we put laxatives in candy and plant it on our suitcases? just remember not to eat it if they don’t go for it!

  36. JollyJumjuck says:

    If the TSA steals your stuff, don’t complain too loudly or you’ll be branded a T

  37. JollyJumjuck says:

    If the TSA steals your stuff, don’t complain too loudly or you’ll be branded a TERRIST!

  38. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Either way, if you fly enough you’re sure to get something stolen.

    Your dignity, for starters.

  39. Supasam83 says:

    Really breaks my heart to see the amount of photog equipment he stole…70-200 2.8 Is…rebels…I got my 20D and 24-70 stolen…If I were to ever see the person that did it…Let’s just say I can’t tell you what I would do…cuz i’d get banned…

  40. narq says:

    Using a TSA position to steal people’s belongings should be a federal offense, with minimum 20 years and $500k fine. Shouldn’t the whole TSA be federally investigated now? By simple association couldn’t all or most TSA officials be committing theft? Last I knew using a position of government authority to commit crime was a federal offense and warranted full investigation.

  41. TemporaryError says:

    There is a reason that the airlines always tell you to put your valuable in your carryon… They don’t even trust TSA.

  42. quirkyrachel says:

    oooh, you know a few years ago I had something stolen from my checked luggage going through Philly and Chicago. I wonder if he was every there? Though seriously, who would steal and re-sell a used epilator?

  43. dweebster says:

    …And then when you get to the plane with your carryon the airlines say there’s not enough room for your little bag (because too many assclowns in the earlier boardings filled up the overheads with excess baggage so THEY could avoid giving TSA full reign over their property).

  44. suburbancowboy says:

    Throw that dangerous bottle of water away in the garbage can right here in the middle of the terminal, and give me your camera.

    Please proceed through the gate and buy another bottle of overpriced water.

  45. GrandizerGo says:

    I’ve had signed photos from AVN stolen from my luggage…

  46. itmustbeken says:

    Mr. Brown is just one of many.

  47. drjayphd says:

    Rest assured, though, if this guy gets off, Gov. Palin’s prepared to offer him a job…

  48. myfigurefemale says:

    @ Kuonji:

    same thing happened to me. i lost an extremely nice discman in checked baggage. TSA denied my claim, saying I didn’t have enough information, though I provided them everything from the baggage ticket to the original receipt. I’ve never checked anything more than clothes since then.

  49. raskolnik says:

    I’m not at all surprised. A friend of mine had two handguns stolen by a TSA screener when he flew out of Memphis last summer. They caught the guy on the security tape and traced him to his house, where they recovered one of them (the other had already been sold).

    This is what you get when you don’t screen the people doing the screening.

  50. Bog says:

    This TSA agent should be flogged and or executed.

  51. Ben_Q2 says:

    I just found a lot of my stolen stuff on Ebay last night. How do I get a hold of the person who did this on CNN I am sure they would love to get this one on TV.