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TSA Employee Stole $50k Worth of Electronics 220

Posted by timothy
from the phew-glad-that's-over dept.
mrquagmire writes "A Continental Airlines employee Monday caught Nelson Santiago-Serrano, 30, stealing an iPad from a suitcase in Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office. Over the past six months, Santiago-Serrano told authorities he stole $50,000 worth of computers, GPS devices and other electronics from luggage he screened, took pictures of them to post for sale online and sold the items often by the time his shift ended."
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TSA Employee Stole $50k Worth of Electronics

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  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:07PM (#36700808) Journal

    Thank god for the TSA. I feel safer already.

    • ...which really is the sole source of what passes for MainStreamMedia in the US, ever report that the organization which vets, or does the background checks for the TSA, is Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater USA??? Never, never will they ever report that very crucial fact, which may be why over 55 sky marshals (the doods with the guns aboard the jetliners) have been fired, and/or convicted and jailed for everything from human trafficking, to drug smuggling, rape, etc., etc.? Blackwater OK's the cro
      • by Lead Butthead (321013) on Friday July 08, 2011 @08:37PM (#36701466) Journal

        Please cite the source of your information.

      • ...which really is the sole source of what passes for MainStreamMedia in the US, ever report that the organization which vets, or does the background checks for the TSA, is Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater USA??? Never, never will they ever report that very crucial fact, which may be why over 55 sky marshals (the doods with the guns aboard the jetliners) have been fired, and/or convicted and jailed for everything from human trafficking, to drug smuggling, rape, etc., etc.? Blackwater OK's the crooks, so the TSA is full of crooks.

        Interesting, but I'm curious why none of this is mentioned on either the Blackwater [wikipedia.org] nor the TSA [wikipedia.org] Wikipedia pages. Nothing even on the discussion pages.

        Black helicopters invading Wikipedia, or something more mundane?

        • by kaptink (699820)

          In the UK at least you cannot get an airside pass without a background check consisting of a criminal history check in all countries you have ever lived, five years employment to a one month resolution and a referee check to cover five years down to a single month resolution as well as a residency check. They are pretty darn meticulous. Perhaps the US should try harder to weed out criminals who are trusted to provide the security and screening to airline passengers? Seems like a good place for terrorists to

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by c6gunner (950153)

        ...which really is the sole source of what passes for MainStreamMedia in the US, ever report that the organization which vets, or does the background checks for the TSA, is Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater USA???

        Yeah, those goddamn MainStreamMedia refuse to publish bullshit that you just pulled out of your ass! Imagine that!

        Whoever modded you "interesting" should be shot for being fatally credulous.

    • Something like this is bound to happen occasionally whether the TSA does the screening or someone else. The only difference is that if a private company was doing the screening the screeners would be guaranteed to be minimum wage employees and many of them would have previous arrest records as was the case before the TSA started.

      • Something like this is bound to happen occasionally whether the TSA does the screening or someone else.

        It happens less when you're separated from your electronic doodads for several minutes while you're shuffled into a separate line for the scanner.

        • by Gription (1006467) on Friday July 08, 2011 @09:57PM (#36701840)
          More to the point:
          There is no valid reason that I shouldn't be able to demand that my property be inspected in my presence and then be allowed to lock it securely before it is trundled off to the baggage handlers. Even if the TSA was above reproach, baggage handlers are not a group to be blindly trusted either.

          There are events that I used to go to by air that I can't go to anymore. When you are traveling an item that a fingerprint can cause $2000 of damage to either you drive or you don't go.
        • It also happens less when I can actually lock my luggage with a lock for which the TSA doesn't have a key.

      • by tqk (413719)

        Something like this is bound to happen occasionally whether the TSA does the screening or someone else.

        He's in an airport, one of the most heavily CCTV'd places on 21st Century Earth, was only caught because a sharp eyed employee noticed, and he got away with it for six months, after stealing $50,000, while advertising his stolen wares on the web.

        You're an idiot!

        • by tqk (413719)

          ... while advertising his stolen wares on the web.

          ... and selling them while "at work." FFS!

        • I think they should invite the victims of the thefts and put this guy naked in the glass screening box and let folks at him right in front of security.

          This whole security theater is very Machivellie... But to balance the scales for the public, the government has to show that screwups from the "watchers" are punished... Buitally, sportingly, publically.. The threat of the "legal system" is not enough... Agee all TSA is outside much of the old legal standards. It is time to skip due process for these guys tha

  • TSA = Dumbasses (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:07PM (#36700816)

    Gee, I wonder if the TSA will still claim, "our boys followed procedure, we stand behind them."

    What a laughing stock the TSA has become.

    • Who watches the watcher? No, do not look in the direction of Washington DC. Nobody there cares.

      • by sco08y (615665) on Friday July 08, 2011 @08:39PM (#36701472)

        Who watches the watcher? No, do not look in the direction of Washington DC. Nobody there cares.

        First off DC is not the only place to look. Texas has put together an "anti-groping" bill, supported by the governor. At least two presidential candidates have proposed abolishing it altogether. And there's a bill in the House aimed at making TSA agents liable for unwanted physical contact.

        That's just from a quick search... there are plenty of legislators who are interested in reforming the TSA, but the specifics of how the TSA is run is the executive branch's responsibility, so you should probably write the President.

        • by IonOtter (629215) on Friday July 08, 2011 @09:35PM (#36701756) Homepage

          Except that Texas chickened out and backed off. The TSA threated to designate the entire state of Texas a "no-fly zone".

          However, it would seem that a few legislators actually used their brains and thought about that for a moment, and decided to push the issue and call the government's bluff. [thehill.com]

          I mean, seriously. Who actually believes that the feds would actually BAN all flights in and out of Texas?

          Please...

          • Irony, an unconstitutional act that actually does relate to commerce provisions in the Constitution. (as opposed to the gov't bloat under the guise of it)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by magarity (164372)

      Gee, I wonder if the TSA will still claim, "our boys followed procedure, we stand behind them."

      Too bad for him he was caught before they've finished unionizing. If he got away with it a little longer he would just sit in the TSA equivalent to a "rubber room" [newyorker.com].

  • Security FAIL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by putaro (235078) on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:14PM (#36700880) Journal

    If they can take something out without getting caught, they could be putting something in. Who would bother with suicide bombs if they can slip it into the luggage?

  • by jergason (1406075) on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:17PM (#36700898)
    Think of how many terrorists he stopped though!
  • So all anyone has to do to get past secuirty at an airport is pretent to be a TSA agent.
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:36PM (#36701030) Homepage Journal
    My luggage gets searched all the time. I'm pretty sure they've never taken anything - at least not anything I've ever missed - from my luggage. But really, if something was taken I wouldn't have any recourse for it. Who would you report it to? How would you prove it was there to begin with? Being as you release your checked bags before you even go through security, and they pass through multiple hands before they even get on to your plane, there is a chain of inaccountability. Even if you did something obscure but unique to identify your property you still wouldn't be able to prove who took it by the time it showed up on the black market.

    And of course, if you're like me and you don't live near a hub airport - therefore you need to take connections all the time - you and your luggage go through that many more sets of gates and hands before getting to your destination.
    • by GNUman (155139) on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:54PM (#36701188)
      I once had a Sony PSP and an iPod stolen from my baggage on a Continental Airlines flight going out from Newark Airport (Yes, I should've taken them in my carry on, I had no space left and was overly trusting).

      I complained to Continental Airlines and they basically said "Tough luck, we don't go through your baggage, it's the TSA. Take it up with them." They added "We do recommend our passengers to avoid putting any electronics in their baggage".

      TSA has a form you can fill to file a complaint. It includes sending the receipts of your stolen objects and witnesses that confirm you did have them in your baggage and witnesses that confirm they were not there when you arrived. Then they supposedly "start an investigation".

      I had lost the receipts of my items and being outside the US it was difficult to go to the store and try to get a copy. So I never submitted the papers. I did learn my lesson. Never put electronics in your baggage, it will come up in scans and become an excuse for someone to open it.
      • by jittles (1613415)
        Its not just electronics they are after. I had my razor blades stolen from my suitcase at LHR or CDG. They were there when I got to Paris, gone when I got to London. They were gillete Mach 3 blades, which were about 20 pounds when I got to London. I ended up buying cheapies because the exchange rate was so bad at the time, I couldn't bring my self to buy replacements.
      • by stephanruby (542433) on Friday July 08, 2011 @11:48PM (#36702292)

        You should have submitted the papers anyway. It doesn't matter if they're properly filled out, or not. It's not like they were going to reimburse you anyway. You fill out the papers, so that at least, your incident gets recorded in their statistics.

        Often times, authorities try to dissuade you from filling out paperwork, bad statistics make their bosses look bad, but then again, if no incident is ever recorded or filed, it's as if your incident never even officially occurred.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      Even if you did something obscure but unique

      Hmmm... I suggest exploding dye packs. And when the blue painted guy has you hauled off the plane as a potential terrorist you can have him arrested for attempted theft.

      Ok... Its not a perfect plan... but it would at least raise question why my valuable X got more than Y feet from my suitcase.

      • If you're going to use exploding dye packs, you may as well make them lethal, because the guy who detects the "bomb-like" device in your luggage is going to report you.

    • by chihowa (366380) *

      Contact the police (the real police, not the TSA goons) that are located at the airport. Skip the TSA forms altogether and file a police report.

      My wife had a laptop stolen from her bag (why did she pack a laptop in check baggage!?!?). We reported it to the local police who had jurisdiction over the airport and a detective was extremely interested and helpful. The information we provided helped to crack a little group of TSA agents at the airport who had been doing this for several weeks. They never found th

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:41PM (#36701080) Homepage

    Over the past six months, Santiago-Serrano told authorities he stole $50,000 worth of computers,

    If he's been confessing for that long, you'd think they'd have stopped him before!

    (Sponsored by the grammar police)

    • by sco08y (615665)

      Over the past six months, Santiago-Serrano told authorities he stole $50,000 worth of computers,

      If he's been confessing for that long, you'd think they'd have stopped him before!

      (Sponsored by the grammar police)

      That's not likely; ambiguities are handled by the semantics police.

  • How many bombs, IEDs and other dangerous items did he confiscate and sell online?

    I'm sure there was a very good reason why he was touching people's luggage.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:49PM (#36701140)
    Being molested, xrayed, shown naked on a screen, and robbed is a small price to pay to keep terrorists from taking away my freedom!
    • by sconeu (64226)

      Hey. It's the price we pay to keep ourselves safe from authoritarian fanatics!!!
      (See sig)

  • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:52PM (#36701174)
    Dressing them in a uniform and giving them arrest-authority would suddenly make a poorly educated, under-class person magically transform into an upstanding middle-class person with a passion for doing their job to the best of their abilities?
    • by bmo (77928)

      Did you really suggest that education and money makes you honest?

      Really?

      HAVE YOU FUCKING LOOKED AROUND YOU?

      --
      BMO - Real thieves wear suits.

      • I don't believe you caught the "middle-class" part. Obviously you'll find outliers regardless of where you go on the scales. The media also tends to distort perspectives when it comes to the wealthy, educated, elite. Again outliers, but in this case the natural desire for people to "eat the rich".
    • List of TSA Salary [tsa.gov] I doublt Mr Serrano, or for that matter, any of the pseudo-cop screeners are being paid at band F or above.

  • by kwiqsilver (585008) on Friday July 08, 2011 @07:59PM (#36701226)
    If you must fly, here's what to do:
    • Buy a hard plastic or metal suitcase with locks.
    • Buy a pistol, if you don't have one already. (A starter pistol, which has no legal restrictions on ownership or purchase in any state, works just as well).
    • Put your pistol in the suitcase, check-in at the counter, and tell the airline rep you have a firearm to declare.
    • Fill out the card that says your firearm is unloaded, put it in your suitcase, and lock it (with real locks, not TSA-approved ones), while the airline rep watches.
    • Walk down to the TSA screener with the airline rep, and hand your bag over.
    • The TSA screener will scan your bag while you wait. If there's a need to open it, the screener will have you open it, and will look through the bag while you watch.

    It is illegal for them to open your bag without you being present, if you have a firearm declared. (I guess the government doesn't trust the TSA near guns...if only they'd expand that mistrust to all the federal alphabet soup criminals).

    I discovered this accidentally, because I usually take at least one pistol whenever I fly anywhere, and have been using it ever since. If I'm going some place anti-gun, like Chicago or CA, I take a firearm component, like a barrel, which still has to be checked the same way, but can't get me into trouble on the trip.

    • by swb (14022)

      Yes! Traveling with a firearm is like getting extra special first class check-in.

      I love how they treat you like somebody special; I think in some airports they assume you're a cop.

      • by kwiqsilver (585008) on Friday July 08, 2011 @08:34PM (#36701446)

        They tend to treat me like I'm crazy. But then, I don't look anything like a cop; I look like a slacker software engineer.

        A few years ago at Sea-Tac, I had an Alaska rep tell me I couldn't check in a firearm. We had to call her boss over. Fortunately he was familiar with the form, and knew what to do. And the first rep was very apologetic and friendly after. And the best part is: nobody stole the external HDD out of my suitcase!

        I also recommend printing out a copy of the TSA page on flying with firearms [tsa.gov], in case you get somebody who doesn't have a clue.

        • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday July 08, 2011 @09:37PM (#36701766)

          I also recommend printing out a copy of the TSA page on flying with firearms, in case you get somebody who doesn't have a clue.

          Fantastic. I think everyone who flies should carry one round of ammunition in an original package every time they fly. The rule that TSA will inspect the package at the ticket counter will cause a massive breakdown in the TSA system, as all TSA operatives will be up at the ticket counter inspecting one round of ammunition each and nobody will be available to search bags and steal stuff. It will also require a personal escort to the CTX machines so that the passenger doesn't do anything to the now-searched baggage.

          Or, the checkin process will get so backed up that nobody will be able to fly anywhere.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      It is illegal for them to open your bag without you being present, if you have a firearm declared.

      I'm pretty sure it is illegal for them to steal the stuff you have in bag too, yet that doesn't seem to help.

      * Yes, yes. It increases their risk significantly and hence they'll pick a different bag.

    • by macshit (157376) <miles@NOspaM.gnu.org> on Friday July 08, 2011 @09:20PM (#36701684) Homepage

      When I fly out of Narita, they seem to do the baggage exam before checkin, which seems a much better system.

      Baggage is x-rayed upon entering the checkin area, and if they're suspicious, they pull you aside to a table and have you open the suitcase and go through it. The examiner just watches, giving directions as needed (indeed, it's very clear they're under orders not to touch anything), and asks you to explain anything unusual. It works very well, and gives real peace of mind.

    • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @03:48AM (#36702944) Homepage

      That's an excellent point, actually. I knew this but it never actually occurred to me that the fact can be utilized in this way. (I wanted to say "methodized" but I'm not sure that's a work which is real enough... I like the word though.) Yes, as a former TSA screener operating out of Texas, I have a few interesting gun stories... at least they were interesting to me at the time. Most of them stem from people with CHLs who FORGOT they brought their pistols with them (all of them women) and decided to check their carry-on with the pistol in the bag... usually loaded.

      But when people did check their firearms properly, they did get the red carpet treatment. Part of the reason for this is the mentality that they are wannabe cops. Some actually call themselves "federal agents." It's sick and stupid but also quite true.

      Personally, I have always felt that carrying the gear with you was the best way to go, but this is giving me cause to reconsider.

      As for the security of your things, I still can't say that I have ever witnessed a condition which enabled people to steal things so easily as described in the article. At my airport, there were eyes pretty much everywhere and co-workers were likely to snitch on one another. (Proof positive that they aren't cops right?)

      But with that said, there was a huge bust as my airport that occurred while I was there which involved baggage handlers. They were stealing tool boxes, golf clubs and rummaging through TSA screened luggage after the TSA passed them on. So if the airline says "don't look at us, look to the TSA" that's not the full truth of the matter.

      I'm not here to defend the TSA or its screeners, but I would like to remind people that the TSA isn't a single hive mind of trained professionals. They are a bunch of people from different walks of life but most of which are the same [types] of people who might serve you at a burger restaurant. And the rule for dealing with restaurant people is pretty much the same as dealing with the TSA -- treat them with respect and kindness as you are being served or else you could end up with results you don't care for. But when the service is done, feel free to express your opinions and views.

  • In other news, the TSA continues to steal your 4th Amendment rights. You know, the certain inalienable rights that millions of us have died for?

    • Did you die for something? I must have missed the memo...

    • Re:In other news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bussdriver (620565) on Friday July 08, 2011 @09:15PM (#36701672)

      Died of old age?
      Millions of americans haven't died for their rights. WW2 and the civil war didn't even come close.

      Perhaps you were thinking of the millions America has actually killed to build and maintain its empire? Or the greater numbers of indirect killings? The two recent wars this last decade killed over a million; unsurprisingly, we don't keep count... and with poor records its difficult to prove it all (yet the number proven is still really high and the estimates have been over a million for many years now.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by c6gunner (950153)

        Stop being such a whiny cunt.

        Oh, and stop lying, too.

      • by Thing 1 (178996)
        You know, I had the thought the other day that if we posted the names of the people that our country had killed, perhaps it might help motivate us to convince our country to perform fewer killings.
  • Please, lets not forget we have to protect the children from terrorists. So what is the price of some electronic junk being stolen, or perhaps some discomfort as the TSA searches your body in comparison to the safety of the children. We should thank this thief for he will make people carry less stuff out of fear of being stolen, hence there will be less stuff to search and fewer places to hide a bomb that might hurt the children.

  • Tequila (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2011 @09:23PM (#36701702)

    It's not so much an outrage of the theft of items from baggage, it happens from time to time and sometimes it's the handlers. It's clearly wrong and clearly theft.

    What's really interesting is all the stuff being confiscated, like this politician's bottle of tequila [blogspot.com]. OK, he shouldn't have brought it on board the plane, but what's really telling is that they take it and noone knows what happens with it afterwards. Sure they will have plenty of pictures of the cheap stuff getting destroyed. But who's going to miss the small percentage actual good stuff that gets taken home and sold/given/traded with friends or acquaintances?

  • by shentino (1139071)

    Quite frankly, I think the TSA itself should be on the hook.

    The TSA is supposed to be protecting us, and I consider it at the least grossly negligent for them to allow one of their own to pull off something like this for SIX FUCKING MONTHS without getting caught.

    They're supposed to be running background checks on these people, and besides that I wouldn't doubt that his victims have filed plenty of police reports or complaints of some sort, so the powers that be are either completely blind, or are in on it s

  • The most laptops I ever checked through security was 16 (across 2 bags). None were stolen, though one of the displays was cracked once. When they re-packed they did it poorly hence the breakage.

    I really like the firearm idea presented elsewhere in this thread.

  • Why would you leave electronics in anything but carry on luggage? It seems logical that you can't trust anyone at the airport with your personal property. After Continental snuck in the 25$ fee for checked bags I'm actually considering packing light and sending it ahead via UPS. Everything having to do with air travel is one big racket and if you believe otherwise you deserve what's coming to you. In other news TSA agent gets commendation for stealing potentially hazardous personal electronics. Said the age
  • by dotfile (536191) on Saturday July 09, 2011 @01:53AM (#36702644)

    Those cocksuckers swiped a camera from my bag several years ago. TSA pointed the finger at Continental, Continental pointed the finger at TSA. Both parties basically said "Tough shit". Baggage is only covered at $0.50 per pound -- but ANYTHING of any value is specifically excluded. So if they steal electronics, jewelry, anything other than basically clothing, it's just tough shit.

    Fuck 'em. I'd been a loyal Continental customer for years. After that incident and, shortly after that, trying in vain to find a way to actually use the many, many frequent flyer miles I had accumulated, I finally had had enough. Haven't set foot on a Continental flight nor given them a penny of revenue in several years now. Not that they cared in the slightest.

    My point when I complained about my missing shit was, if someone were willing to commit a felony for a box of Hot Tamales (the only other thing missing from my bag), what could I have put IN a bag for, say, $10K? How about $50K? Somehow these shitheads don't make me feel any safer flying.

  • I'm more surprised that people are still putting computers and other electronics in their checked baggage than I am that a TSA agent is stealing stuff.

    Wow. Put it in your carry-on, people. The only thing in my checked bag is my clothes and if they want to steal my dirty underwear they can have at it.

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