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Exclusive: The Stunning JFK Airport Baggage Scandal; 200 Thefts Per Day

Sources: Baggage Handlers, Jetway Workers, Security All In On Ongoing Scam
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JFK Airport

Passengers walk towards Terminal Three of John F. Kennedy Airport. (credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Think twice before you check your luggage at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Cash, jewelry, electronics and other valuables are being stolen from passengers’ baggage at a staggering rate.

It’s happening as a result of inside jobs that aren’t being stopped, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reports exclusively.

All Rita Lamberg has left is an empty jewelry drawer and pictures of the $160,000 worth of watches, rings and necklaces that were stolen from her baggage at JFK Airport.

“I am so sick. This is a lifetime, a lifetime of my savings,” Lamberg said.

But Lamberg isn’t alone. Law enforcement sources told Kramer that thefts at the airport have increased at a staggering and alarming rate. There are now more that 200 a day — and that’s every day. Baggage handlers, jetway workers and even security people are all in on the ongoing scam to steal you blind.

“The belly of the airplane has become like a flea market for airport employees. They go in there and go through all the luggage unencumbered, unchecked,” JFK security lawyer Kenneth Mollins said.

Mollins is representing Lamberg as she tries to get reimbursed by the airline. Former NYPD detective Frank Shea was hired by other clients who were also ripped off at the airport. They both said the theft problem at JFK is a nightmare that is going unchecked.

“What we’re seeing out there is that really anything that isn’t nailed down is being stolen and for that matter I would caution, some day, if there weren’t tires missing from an aircraft,” Shea said.

Sources told Kramer that one of the things that makes the thieves so successful is that they engage in luggage profiling. They go after the most expensive luggage, but they also check out where you come from. So if you live in Scarsdale or Muttontown or North Woodmere you’re more likely to have your bags opened and possibly things stolen.

“It’s really occurring on the tarmac or as it’s being loaded onto the aircraft,” Shea said.

Once they’ve found the goodies, Shea said there are many ways to make off with them.

“Sometimes they get loaded into the back of one of the vehicles out at the airport. They’re searched through. They can be discarded as rubbish. Other times they are leaving the airport grounds,” Shea said.

In other words, thieves steal your bags, but as a passenger you never find that out. The airlines say they are lost in transit.

“The airlines don’t want to report these thefts because it’s bad for business,” Mollins said.

And they don’t want to talk to reporters about it because even if your luggage isn’t stolen you could still be a target.

“Fares go up clearly because of this. It’s a cost of doing business. They pay out and they hide the fact that these items are stolen,” Mollins said.

Most travelers have no idea what’s going on.

“You now scared the hell out of me,” said Sutton Place resident Louis Polk.

“I’m surprised. I didn’t know it was so, so bad,” added Rosana Perez of the Bronx.

And every time Lamberg looks into the emptiness of her jewelry drawer she said she feels, “heartbroken. I can’t believe it happened to me.”

The Port Authority, which owns JFK, said that workers are fingerprinted and given background checks though the FBI database.”

Even so, the agency said it’s going to install more cameras around the airport to help combat the problem Kramer has exposed.

Experts said that what really needs to happen is for the Federal Aviation Administration to tighten standards and for airlines to consider putting cameras in the belly of their planes.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …

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