Two men who clean airplanes charged in theft of passenger valuables www.privateofficer.com
ST. LOUIS IL Feb 9 2012 Two men who cleaned airplane cabins at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport have been charged with stealing valuable items left on airplanes instead of turning them in.
In June, airport police received an anonymous tip that employees of Airport Terminal Services were stealing items that had been left in airplane cabins by forgetful passengers.
The St. Louis-based company provides services such as baggage handling and airplane cleaning to airlines at Lambert and more than 35 other airports in the U.S. and Canada.
Airport police responded with a sting operation. In the early morning hours of June 26, police placed an Apple iPad and a Nintendo DS video game console on two American Airlines airplanes that were to be cleaned by ATS employees.
According to the charges, ATS employee Jessie A. Webb III, 23, boarded the plane where the Nintendo DS had been hidden about 12:30 a.m. He left a short time later with other employees. Police later boarded the plane and discovered that the game console was gone.
Later, about 3:25 a.m., Webb boarded the plane where the iPad had been placed. He ran off the plane five minutes later carrying a magazine in his hand, police said. Again, police boarded that plane and discovered the iPad was missing.
At the end of the shift, police searched all seven ATS employees who had been working and found both the Nintendo DS and the iPad in the backpack of Cornelius L. Palm, 25, of the 5300 block of Wilborn Drive in St. Louis. The iPad was concealed in the magazine Webb had been seen with and Palm told police that he had agreed to take the items, which he knew had been stolen, from Webb.
Palm and Webb were both charged with theft of objects worth over $500, a felony.
Peggy Hohl, an employee services representative at ATS’ corporate headquarters in Maryland Heights, said the men had been fired. She can “count on one hand” the number of incidents of employee theft in recent years.
“We, as a company, have zero tolerance for any kind of pilferage,” she said.
The company regularly assesses its employee training and cooperates with airport authorities in any investigations, Hohl said.
The charges against Webb and Palm come as the Transportation and Security Administration is under fire for a spate of incidents in which its agents allegedly stole items from passengers baggage and belongings, both checked and carry-on.
Most recently, a TSA employee at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was arrested last week for allegedly stealing $5,000 in cash from a passenger’s coat pocket as the coat went through an X-ray machine, the Associated Press reported.
Another TSA agent in Dallas was arrested last month after a passenger whose iPad had gone missing used the device’s tracking feature to locate it at the agent’s home. Police found seven other iPads there, AP reported.