Every hungry roommate knows that if you just steal a tiny bit at a time, NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW. But occasionally you can take it too far, and somebody comes home from work and kicks your door in because there wasn't quite enough soy milk left for the precious bowl of Cracklin' Oat Bran they were LOOKING FORWARD TO ALL DAY. It can also happen that you steal one too many mini liquor bottles from the company that handles the food and beverage for American Airlines and go to jail. But how many is too many before you get caught? Apparently that number is somewhere around 100,000.
Today Queens DA Richard Brown announced [pdf] the arrest of 18 airport workers: fifteen present and former truck drivers employed by Sky Chef, the food and beverage subsidiary for American Airlines, and three security guards. They stand accused of pilfering more than 100,000 of the mini liquor bottles, "as well as duty-free items—such as larger bottles of liquor, perfume, and cartons of cigarettes—with an overall estimated retail value of more than $750,000."
The mini bottle ring was exposed by "Operation Last Call," during which undercover investigators conducted extensive surveillance of the defendants and made 57 undercover buys of over 57,000 mini-bottles of liquor. According to prosecutors, Sky Chef employees were supposed to bring any unsold merchandise from the aircraft back to a storage facility on the airport grounds. But not all of the booze would make it—investigators allege that drivers repeatedly swiped some of the bottles and stashed them in their own vehicles inside plastic bags.
Depending on the type and brand of liquor, investigators say that black market prices ran from fifty-five cents for a bottle of Baileys to a dollar twenty-five for a bottle of Courvoisier. (In-flight, each bottle costs $7, sucka.) Acting on a search warrant this morning, investigators raided the home of a retired Sky Chef driver and, according to the DA, "seized 500 to 600 garbage bags filled with mini liquor bottles. Each bag contained approximately 100 bottles worth between $385,000 and $420,000, as well as $34,000 in cash."
The defendants are variously charged with third-degree bribe receiving, receiving a reward for official misconduct, second-, third- and fourth-degree grand larceny and second-, third- and fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property.