6 people arrested in probe targeting baggage thefts by handlers at Los Angeles airport
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Police served more than two dozen search warrants and made six arrests in an investigation targeting the theft of baggage by handlers at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said.
Detectives and officers from the city and airport also seized jewelry, electronics, clothing and other personal belongings on Wednesday night at 25 locations in the region, including the airport, airport police Assistant Chief Michael Hyams said.
"We believe that there has been a culture of being able to take property that wasn't theirs, and that's what we want to be able to put a stop to," Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Ray Maltez told KABC-TV.
The people arrested were primarily employees or ex-employees of companies contracted to handle luggage and did not work directly for the airport, Hyams said.
Some of the suspects worked for Menzies Aviation, which has an office at the airport. The alleged crimes "were limited to a handful of employees, acting independently," the company said in a statement Tuesday.
"Menzies supports this enforcement action and pledges its complete co-operation with the police investigation," the statement said.
The undercover investigation came in response to a string of theft reports from planes, terminals and runways, police said.
Four suspects were taken into custody on suspicion of receiving stolen property and two for outstanding warrants. A total of 14 people were detained for questioning. More arrests were expected.
The suspects had undergone employment and criminal background checks before they were authorized to work at the airport, said officials, who will attempt to return the seized items to owners.
Most of the police activity was at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and at Terminal 4, which handles American Airlines, American Eagle and some Qantas flights.
Television news showed police raiding airport terminals and leading out people in handcuffs, with several wearing yellow reflective safety vests.
The raids were first reported by KNBC-TV.
Every year about 55 million pieces of luggage are checked at LAX, which served nearly 67 million passengers last year.