Police probe baggage thefts at Los Angeles airport

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 27, 2014 at 8:43 pm •  Published: March 27, 2014
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A $15,000 camera, Gucci bags, name-brand clothing, electronics and jewelry are among the thousands of dollars in valuables stolen by baggage handlers at Los Angeles International Airport, police said Thursday.

Police served more than two dozen search warrants and made six arrests Wednesday night after a months-long investigation in what was the largest baggage-theft operation in the airport's history, Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Raymond Maltez said.

The joint operation with LAPD and airport police came in response to a string of theft reports from planes, terminals and runways. Police noticed lost and theft reports occurring at the airport more frequently when certain crews handled luggage.

Officers seized the stolen goods from 25 locations in the region, including the airport, authorities said. Officials will attempt to return the seized items to owners.

Those arrested were primarily employees or ex-employees of companies contracted to handle luggage and did not work directly for the airport, airport police Assistant Chief Michael Hyams said.

Maltez said the suspects worked for three contracting companies, including Menzies Aviation.

The alleged crimes "were limited to a handful of employees, acting independently," the company, which has an office at the airport, said in a statement. "Menzies supports this enforcement action and pledges its complete cooperation with the police investigation," the statement 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.

"It's still not over. There's a good possibility there will be more search warrants and more arrests to follow," Maltez said.

Police said that while some thieves worked together, most acted on their own seizing opportunities to pocket items from luggage in transit.