The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has once again found itself embroiled in controversy, as two of its agents were discovered stealing $39,000 from passengers’ checked luggage, and were charged Wednesday. A law enforcement source reports that TSA agents Couman Perad and Davon Webb both admitted to looting a total of up to $160,000 from a variety of passengers in a period of several months at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and that the two agents committed the theft of $39,000 on January 30, the same day the investigation into their theft began. According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as reported in the New York Post:
Davon Webb, 30, and Couman Perad, who turned 36 today, were arrested after admitting they had regularly stolen from checked bags, sources said.
In one instance, Perad, who joined the Transportation Security Administration in 2002, and Webb, who has been an agent since 2004, stole $39,000 on Jan. 30 from a bag at Terminal 8, sources said.
The passenger whose money was stolen was on his way to Argentina, sources said. The $39,000 was later found in their homes after TSA notified Port Authority police, sources said.
Perad and Webb would screen bags looking for loot, and then swipe the cash once the luggage was opened in a private screening room, sources said.
The two TSA agents will be charged with grand larceny, possession of stolen property and official misconduct; however, their crimes are not without substantial precedent, as there have been several other high-profile thefts of passengers’ property committed by TSA agents. On Monday, February 14, TSA agent Michael Arato was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, for his admitted role in accepting bribes and kickbacks from a colleague who regularly stole money from passengers during security screenings, as reported by Reuters:
Arato, 41, admitted he took kickbacks from a subordinate officer, whom he permitted to steal between $10,000 and $30,000 in cash from travelers over the course of a year ending in October 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
During a three-week period ending on October 5, video surveillance showed Arato pocketing some $3,100 in kickbacks from the scheme, mostly in $100 bills, authorities said.
He also admitted he regularly stole from passengers at his own checkpoint at the airport’s Terminal B.
In a previous incident this past December, TSA agent Troy Davis was sentenced to three years’ probation for stealing laptop computers from passengers’ luggage at Philadelphia International Airport, as reported by CBS’s Philadelphia Associate, WKYW:
Federal prosecutor Arlene Fisk says defendant Troy Davis, upset about a demotion and lost pay, admitted stealing five laptops and a Sony Playstation.
Fisk says Davis actually used the surveillance equipment for his own greedy purpose.
“He put the luggage through special machines to see whether there were any explosives or anything of concern in the luggage,” she told KYW Newsradio. “When he saw that there was something of value in the luggage, he took out the computers or the games.”
Just as the TSA routinely violates the human dignity and constitutional rights of the American people against unreasonable searches and seizures – as its invasive procedures cause numerous psychological traumas to those whose most intimate body parts are manhandled by its agents – it also has no regard for what John Locke and the Framers considered among the chief natural rights of the human person: the fundamental right to private property, as evident in what can only be described as an epidemic of theft and corruption among its agents.
As is the case with other bureaucratic structures, the TSA lends itself well to a culture of corruption and recklessness characteristic of big government.
In December 2008, another TSA agent at Newark-Liberty International Airport, Pythias Brown, was charged with stealing numerous articles from passenger luggage, including dozens of cameras, laptops and other electronic equipment, and then subsequently selling the items on the auction website eBay. Brown was also entrusted with his well-paid government job after having had his driver’s license revoked several times in the past, and failing to appear in traffic court on the charges.
Further demonstrating the extent to which a culture of theft has become commonplace within the TSA, yet another theft ring of the agency was discovered in Miami, Florida, in September 2009. In this case, sources report that six TSA employees were fired for running an organized operation in which they would steal pricey passenger belongings and then redistribute the wealth among themselves. One agent returned 31 passenger items, including an iPod, and another brought back 25 stolen articles, including jewelry and a camera, after both were discovered by Miami-Dade International Airport police.
In one of the more heinous TSA heists, Christopher Burley, an agent at Little Rock National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, was arrested and charged with theft after he was caught on camera removing a passenger’s pain medication from his suitcase. Likewise, again at Newark Airport, on February 3, 2010, TSA agent Leroy Ray was caught on surveillance video taking an envelope containing $500 in cash from a wheelchair-bound woman’s bag as it went through an x-ray machine, according to a criminal complaint.