Newark Airport TSA agent charged with $700 daily theft from passengers

Well, here we go again. In what seems like a monthly report on sticky fingered TSA staff, Newark Airport earns this months dubious honor for airport with the worst offenders.

This case revolves around two TSA security screeners who worked at Newark Liberty Airport. The duo is accused of stealing up to $700 in cash every single time they worked, grabbing hundred dollar bills from passenger luggage.

Most of the victims were women heading home to India – which means the two suspects knew exactly who to target.

The two made things worse by joking about their crimes in front of their supervisors, splitting the cash under the watchful eye of security cameras and at one point, even sticking up their middle finger to the cameras.

The first of the two suspects was arrested last month, and spent a month cooperating with Port Authority Police and the Department of Homeland Security. At the end of that month, police arrested 41 year old TSA supervisor Michael Arato. His accomplice has not been named or charged yet. In the complaint, Arato is on record saying “he was angry at the women for “leaving this country with our money.”

Both men have been employed at Newark since 2002 and began stealing last year. According to a TSA spokeswoman, 23 TSA agents have so far been fired for stealing from passenger luggage, and Newark is so far the leader in thefts – with one security screener admitting to over $400,000 in stolen property.

[Photo from: Flickr/Slasher-Fun]

In yet another “isolated incident” – TSA officer accused of stealing laptops from lost & found

Bad apples are found in every part of life – but the Transportation Security Administration seems to have a lot of bad luck keeping bad apples out of their ranks.

On Monday, 40 year old Jennifer Steplight surrendered to face charges that she stole four laptops from a TSA lost and found facility, and that she covered up the theft by creating false records.

Steplight was in charge of maintaining the records for all lost and found items at Newark airport, and was employed as a Master Transportation Security Officer-Coordination Center Officer.

Despite the long and impressive title, she apparently couldn’t resist helping herself to some of our belongings. In 2008, Steplight even received the Newark Liberty Airport “Consistency in Service” award.

She has now been charged with one count of embezzlement and one count of making false statements. If found guilty, she faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for the embezzlement and five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the false statements.

[Image from Getty]

TSA job demographic: must eat lots of pizza

The TSA is looking for fitness freaks and health gurus to keep our planes and airports safe. This is a pretty important job, so it makes sense that the agency would be committed to sourcing the best of the best. When you walk through airport security, the goal is to make you think twice about that box-cutter tucked in your boot.

That’s why the TSA is advertising its open positions on pizza boxes.

Before stuffing your pie-hole with a slice, the TSA wants to own your eyeballs for a moment, using that moment before you flip the top of the box back and dive into a greasy delight to entice you to apply. These ads, the only thing standing between you and caloric heaven, are for positions at Dulles and Reagan National in the Washington, DC area. Potential candidates are offered careers “where X-ray vision and federal benefits come standard,” according to USA Today.

So, what kind of hopeful TSA pro can we expect to find responding to a pizza-box ad? Do we really need to ask?

[photo by @tjohansmeyer via TweetPhoto]

Phoenix TSA fails to detect 20 trips with 20 pounds of pot – failure or fearmongering?

Fox news in Phoenix is covering the story of two men who were running a regular pot transport scheme, delivering pot to Chicago from their home airport. The men had apparently passed through Phoenix Sky Harbor airport over 20 times, each time with almost 20 pounds of pot.

The story focuses on why the TSA failed to detect the pot, and “what else may be getting through?”. Because the men used airline buddy passes, their regular activity failed to show up on any of the automated watch systems, so they were able to book a ticket, and head directly to the airport.

The TSA issued a statement about the incident: “The mission of the TSA is to ensure the safety of the aviation system and intercept dangerous items.

To me, that makes perfect sense – the TSA is not in charge of finding or detecting drugs. If a TSA agent happens to find a stash of marijuana hidden in a bag, I’m sure he or she would call for airport law enforcement, but in my opinion, expecting the TSA to add drugs and other items to their search list is just not possible – they have a hard enough time finding guns and bombs. That said, I can understand them not finding the pot once, or maybe twice – but to fail to notice it over twenty times does seem rather excessive.

What do you think? Is it fair to blame the TSA for not finding 20 pounds of pot taken on a plane over 20 times?


TSA forces Richmond airport to issue access badge to convicted felon

In today’s episode of “what did the TSA do this time?”, the agency is under fire for not only hiring a convicted felon, but demanding that his assigned airport issue him an access badge.

The unidentified TSA employee was hired by the agency after passing their background checks – but when he applied for his airport badge, Richmond airport turned him down, citing a conviction for robbery when he was 18.

When the airport denied the badge application, the TSA demanded that they reconsider, citing “unspecified consequences” if they refused. To me, this sounds an awful lot like blackmail.

The employee had not mentioned the conviction on his TSA application, and it doesn’t look like it it would have mattered, because the TSA claims he actually committed the crime when he was 17, and that they don’t really care about a conviction at that age.

The airport access badge is required to obtain access to the “sterile” area of the airport, including the baggage sorting areas and airline parking spots. Of course, the job of a TSA agent also includes passenger and luggage screening – something convicted felons should not be allowed to do if you ask me.

Politicians are now getting involved, and U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor has asked the TSA to clarify their actions. Given the recent bad press for the TSA, it never ceases to amaze me how they continue to screw up, creating even more bad PR. Lesson to be learned? If you are a criminal planning to protect our skies, make sure you don’t commit any crimes after your 18th birthday.

What do you think?