TSA security officers are caught stealing electronics from passengers at airports

Ever lose something while traveling? Maybe you forgot it at a security checkpoint or the item disappeared from your baggage. If a passenger does forget their things at checkpoints then TSA agents are supposed to contact the passenger to try to return the stuff; or if an agent has to open checked-in baggage (locking it doesn’t matter — they break locks if they can’t open them), the agents are not supposed to take keep anything unless it is illegal. Too bad there are hundreds of TSA agents that feel otherwise.

ABC’s Nightline recently investigated theft by TSA agents at airports. As part of this investigation, Nightline ran checked-in bags at various airports around the United States that held cash and electronics, and purposefully forget electronics at TSA security checkpoints. All the checked-in bags returned with all contents inside and all the forgotten electronics were eventually returned — except for one iPad.

Andy Ramirez, a TSA agent in Orlando, took it upon himself to take Nightline’s forgotten iPad home. Nightline used the iPad’s “Find my iPad” feature to watch as the iPad moved away from the airport and finally end up at Ramirez’s house. Nightline gave Ramirez two weeks to return the iPad on his own (as he should have) but after he didn’t, they showed up — with camera in tow — at Ramirez’s house asking him about it. Ramirez of course denied it at first but after Nightline used the remote siren feature, Ramirez coughed up the iPad. The kicker? He blamed his wife for stealing it. You can watch it all go down in the following seven minute video:

As the video points out, Ramirez isn’t alone. There are hundreds of TSA agents that have been convicted for stealing items from passengers, with one agent stealing upwards of $800,000 worth of merchandise over the time span of a few years. There are probably even more that have not been caught, yet.

While I’m sure for every crook there are dozens of honest TSA workers, this really does put a question mark above the TSA. In fact, I recently traveled and, upon return, found some things missing from my checked-in, locked bags. (Nothing expensive.) My parents promptly blamed the TSA. I defended the TSA. Guess the joke’s on me.

[via CNET]

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9 comments

  1. Peter

    @greg: Oh well; I did it again: Believing that human kind is – or at least is able to be good and honest is a temptation I can’t resist.
    Loosely related to this: please have a look at this image stolen from a documentary by National Geographics. It seems easy to distinguish the bright from the dark. But if you cover ther sharp frontier between the seemingly different blocks of the object in the foreground, you’ll see: it’s all the same.
    Sometimes I forget about the fact that we see, what we want to see.

  2. Ian

    My Sony Vaio computer was stolen at Heathrow Terminal 5 by BAA security personnel. I had placed it for scanning in a tray on the belt. They put it through separated by other passengers trays from my cabin bag and my messenger bag, so I did not notice that I did not have it until on board the plane.

    Later the police were to recover a video of the computer being handed over to a BAA supervisor but the man had his back to the camera and could not be identified. There is no question, BAA security staff stole my computer (a top model at the time).

    I received a complete corporate brush-off by BAA; no way to contact anyone at BAA, no acceptance of responsibility etc. When I complained next time passing through T5 I was warned after raising my voice that if I continued they would “call the police”.

    To this day I have received no compensation and still would very much like to know where BAA’s HQ is (they refused to tell me) and how to make a successful claim against them.

    The police told me that there was no security or control of items left on the belts and someone at the Sony shop in T5 (since closed) told me that they witnessed a passenger return to find a computer left behind on the belt, shouting at them when they said, “computer sir, what computer?”

    I think stealing at Heathrow (Thiefrow) was a way of life. I heard that they tightened up the security since 2009, but at the time it was possible for security staff going off duty to take passengers’ items with them because there were no security controls or checks of any kind.

  3. P Dionne

    @Peter:

    So it is okay for all low paid individuals to steal other people’s property. ARE YOU NUTS??? I believe all people in positions of authority should be held to higher standards and as a requirement of their position they should have to sign an agreement where any criminal act they are convicted of brings double the punishment of the maximum sentence for the crime. I also believe that anyone in authority that lies, misstates, or provides false evidence, that results in a conviction of another, should also have to serve double the sentence of the one convicted.

    There are too many individuals in power positions that commit criminal acts and get away with it! The laws need to make them think twice about doing wrong.

  4. sl0j0n

    Hello, all.
    Its been my experience [nearly 60yrs of it], that ‘people’ that treat others badly,
    are usually ‘bad’ people.
    The “horror stories” we hear about TSA, particularly about mistreating others,
    is really all we ‘need to know’.
    IF you are a ‘good’ person, you will neither mistreat another,
    nor condone mistreating others.
    Unfortunately, the ‘government’ is *not* ‘good’.
    It definitely does *not* care, if its’ minions mistreat “we the people”.
    It may take “TEOTWAWKI”, but I believe eventually,
    most of us will come to that realization.

    Have a GREAT day, neighbors!

  5. greg

    @Peter:

    Probably not. Pilfering is not usually driven by the lack of money, but the desire for whatever they are stealing, or even a compulsion. Or just the thrill of being able to get away with it because of one’s position..

  6. Peter

    As has been said in the video these officers are paid badly. The vast majority of them cares about the security of the passengers and there should be appropriate payment. That would not prevent thievery completely but would lower the temptation (I guess/hope).