Cash Stolen From Passenger By Transportation Security Administration Agent?
“Whether I’ll proactively remove my wallet from my pocket is another matter. It’s absurd that one would ever be forced to part with one’s money. There are airports in the world where I wouldn’t trust all the contents to reemerge. And putting them in a locked bag pocket isn’t much help, since there are agents who have a problem with my keeping my eye on my bag at all times.”
Seth — who is a reader of The Gate — posted this comment in response to this article pertaining to taking every questionable item out at airport security checkpoints on the same day that a local television news station in Orlando reported on the arrest of an agent of the Transportation Security Administration who was accused of stealing cash from a passenger at the security checkpoint of Orlando International Airport.
Cash Stolen From Passenger By Transportation Security Administration Agent?
Alexander Shae Johnson — who is 22 years of age — was arrested on the evening of Thursday, June 22, 2017 when a female passenger named Kathleen Duddleston alleged that he pilfered money out of her bag after she was stopped for additional screening and could not see her bag.
After she was “patted down” by a different agent of the Transportation Security Administration whose name is Michelle Metz, Duddleston reportedly reached for her bag and could not find her money — and then she noticed a bulge in the left front pocket of the shirt worn by Johnson.
“Duddleston asked Johnson if that was her money, and he said he got the money from the bank,” according to this article written by . “The woman complained to Metz that she believed Johnson stole money from her. Metz then contacted her supervisor.”
Video surveillance — which is not being released at this time due to “an ongoing investigation” by police — “showed that Johnson reached into the passenger’s bag, took an undetermined amount of money and put it in his left shirt pocket, police said.”
Johnson was reportedly fired and no longer works as an agent for the Transportation Security Administration.
Certainly Not the First Incident of Theft in Orlando
Almost five years ago back on Sunday, September 30, 2012, I first reported in this article about an undercover video investigation conducted by ABC News in the United States in response to hundreds of claims by passengers of the thefts of valuable items by agents of the Transportation Security Administration. At least one agent was not only caught with possession of a tablet computer he allegedly stole; but also purportedly lying about the incident.
Andy Ramirez — who is no longer a part of the Transportation Security Administration workforce, according to an official statement by the Transportation Security Administration agency — initially denied having possession of a missing Apple iPad tablet computer purposely left behind at the airport security checkpoint at Orlando International Airport before finally confessing on camera that he indeed have it in his home where it was tracked by Brian Ross, who is an investigation reporter for ABC News.
Ramirez even blamed his wife for the incident — again, caught on camera:
Some people argued that what ABC News did with their investigation in terms of purposely leaving behind valuable items smacks of entrapment.
Coincidentally, ABC News is a division of the American Broadcasting Company, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company, whose Walt Disney World theme park property is one of the most popular attractions by tourists in the Orlando area of Florida.
FlyerTalk members not only wondered how many other thefts may have been committed by Ramirez that went undetected, but also wondered why apparently no charges have been brought at that time against Ramirez, citing that if he indeed did abscond with the Apple iPad tablet computer, then he committed a crime — and my initial research indicates that Ramirez has never been charged with a crime in relation to that specific incident.
Worse — according to the Transportation Security Administration agency and reports by FlyerTalk members — the jobs of 381 Transportation Security Administration agents had been terminated because of theft in a period of time between 2003 and 2012. One would wonder how many thefts were committed in that time period which were not caught — and how many more thefts have been committed at airport security checkpoints since then.
The number is certainly not zero. Sean Henry was arrested on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 and charged with stealing from passengers traveling through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York “after a sting operation conducted jointly by the TSA and the Port Authority Police Department caught Henry leaving the airport with two iPads that had been planted as part of the sting, as well as numerous other electronics devices he had allegedly stolen from passengers”, according to this article written by Randy Kreider and Megan Chuchmach of ABC News. “…the sting used the iPads’ own tracking capabilities to follow the stolen tablets’ movements.”
The conundrum for people like Seth is the question of where is the safest place to put currency while being screened at an airport security checkpoint without having to endure the potentially invasive experience of a “pat-down” by an agent of the Transportation Security Administration. As I suggested in this article, the reason why I place my valuables in a secured zippered pocket of my bag long before I arrive at the airport security checkpoint — such as prior to arriving at the airport itself, if possible — is that exactly where I placed my valuables is not immediately apparent to anyone within the vicinity of the security checkpoint at the airport and therefore theoretically decreasing the possibility of theft.
To be fair, many of the Transportation Security Administration agents with whom I encounter are friendly, greet me politely, treat me fairly, and may even engage in some humor with me. Regardless, I keep an eye on my belongings at all times whenever I pass through an airport security checkpoint, and I personally have never had anything stolen. I also ensure that loose items which are valuable to me — such as cash and keys — are placed in a secure zippered compartment in my carry-on bag long before I enter the line for the airport security checkpoint so that they cannot easily be removed or taken, as opposed to placing them in an open bowl in front of any Transportation Security Administration agent or fellow passenger who may be tempted to take it at an opportune moment.
While I still disagree with many of the policies implemented by the Transportation Security Administration and believe some of them infringe upon the rights of passengers, a few simple precautions such as the ones I stated help me to get through airport security checkpoints with no problems or issues most of the time and — as I said — I have never had an item of mine stolen at an airport security checkpoint in all of the years in which I have been traveling.
If John Kelly — who is the current secretary of the Department of Homeland Security of the United States and a former general — has it his way, the current ban on most electronic devices larger than a mobile telephone from ten airports in the Middle East region would be expanded to all international flights to and from the United States. This could result in most passengers no longer carrying tablet computers aboard airplanes; so there is no chance that they would be stolen by agents of the Transportation Security Administration.
Kelly should also consider expanding that ban to prohibiting passengers from carrying currency of any type, which would also eliminate any chance of theft of cash by agents of the Transportation Security Administration.
Problem solved — right?!?
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.