Confessions of an airport thief: Jewelry, phones, iPads swiped from planes

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 7:46 PM

While police investigations at airports typically involve items stolen from luggage, this is likely the first targeting valuables in seat pockets and overhead bins left on the plane."In my mind, I declare OK everybody takes it, why not me? I look these expensive things," the worker told CNN in an exclusive interview.

Confessions of an airport thief: Jewelry, phones, iPads swiped from planes

The employee'south name isn't being used, because she's portion of an ongoing police investigation into what detectives declare appears to be a widespread theft ring involving numerous employees and supervisors who target items that passengers leave behind. While police investigations at airports typically involve items stolen from luggage, this is likely the first targeting valuables in seat pockets and overhead bins left on the plane.

"In my mind, I declare OK everybody takes it, why not me? I look these expensive things," the worker told CNN in an exclusive interview. "When I discover something, they tell me, when you wish to get it, get it. Don't report it. (If you) wish to report it, that'south your option."

It wasn't an option she chose. She admits to stealing "just a tablet," although police declare they suspect she took much more.

"I get it because it looked easy," she said. The thief-turned-informant opted to cooperate instead of being arrested.

"Every day, the customers, the passengers leave ... articles, different things. Sometimes IDs, sometimes money, sometimes electronics, sometimes toys. Mostly iPads, Kindles, electronics every day."

Incidents around the country

This alleged theft ring is just the latest example of what police call an insider threat at airports around the country.

This month, a Delta Airlines ramp agent at Palm Shore International Airport was arrested after he was caught with $282.400 in a backpack, telling investigators he was paid to deliver the backpack to someone in a bathroom at the airport.

In another case, a JetBlue flight attendant was recently accused of leaving sixty-eight pounds of cocaine at a LA International Airport security checkpoint.

A gun-smuggling ring at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in two thousand-fourteenth that involved a Delta ramp worker and accomplice keep a spotlight on the security risk of insider threats and led to tighter employee screening at the airport.

And latest year, CNN revealed how police at Miami International Airport keep hidden cameras interior the stomach of a plane to capture luggage handlers opening bags and stealing valuables.

Even though swiping iPads and phones left behind may not seem as serious, airport police executive around the country declare that any crime by airport employees can be considered a threat because they've access to safe areas as well as the planes. In addition, they caution, criminals or terrorists could target a vulnerable employee.

Lost and found

Police tell CNN that sometimes passengers forget they left something on the plane, so they may not file a police report. Other times, when a report is filed, police have tracked iPhones and iPads to employee homes via Apple'south Discover My iPhone option.

"Unfortunately, there'south a lot of opportunity for unscrupulous individuals when they work here at the airport," the police detective handling the theft investigation said. "It'south literally everything -- jewelry, cash, anything a passenger could leave (behind)."

The detective said the plane cleaners and maintenance workers thieve the valuables because in many cases, they can't afford to purchase the items. In some cases, police declare they discover the items for sale at pawnshops.

"It starts out with tiny things. They'll go onboard an aircraft and then it starts to grow," the detective said. "We've developed information from a lot of individuals that identify potential organized thefts. We're trying to send a message that employees that are honest and decent deserve to be respected, and those that aren't necessity to be removed from the environment because they lead to other compromises at the airport."

The best advice to passengers is the most obvious. When flight attendants tell you to check your seatback and gather all your items before leaving the plane, do it. Because in a matter of seconds, that iPad you left behind might already be gone.

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