Doesn't it seem odd that, in a society rife as it is with theft, graft and deceit, we allow a bundle of what must surely be some of our most indispensable possessions to tumble freely around the hands of a bunch of strangers? You go to the airport, you "check your bag," which is really just a euphemism to "saying goodbye and hoping for the best." You see it being tossed into cargo holds; you watch as other people's luxury Tumi cases spin by on the carousel, and, if you're like me, you briefly contemplate trading in your own weathered rucksack for someone else's more polished life. You disappear into the crowd, no one will ever notice! Except when they do.
That may or may not have been the logic employed by the group of luggage handlers accused of stealing more than $20,000 in items from travelers' checked bags—items that included laptops, all manner of Apple products, and a pair of two carat diamond and gold earrings, the Queens District Attorney announced today.
The ring spanned the past two years and was allegedly operated by employees working in Terminals 4 and 7, meaning travelers departing and arriving from such moneyed locations as Japan, Hawaii, Johannesburg, London, Bangkok, Dubai, Milan were the primary targets.
“The defendants—who were hired to handle the baggage of those traveling in and out of Kennedy Airport—are alleged to have stolen computers, cell phones and other items from checked luggage with many of them selling the pilfered items to a pawn shop or to a 'fence' who was actually an undercover police officer," Queens DA Richard Brown said in a statement. "The defendants have been caught red-handed and will now face the consequences of their alleged illegal acts.”
Many of the deals were, at best, shoddily arranged. Sheldon Theodore, 22, allegedly met with the "fence" several times between October 2013 and January 2014, twice while wearing his reflective orange work vest.
In another instance, 35-year-old Ryan Phillips allegedly filched an iPad from a passenger flying to South Africa, which the passenger promptly tracked back to Phillips. Authorities quickly discovered that not only did Philips allegedly have the iPad, but a separately stolen iPhone he was allegedly using as his own.
The group is awaiting arraignment on grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property in Queens Criminal Court. All of this has happened before.