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

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

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. …

  • Dairyqueener

    What would be wrong with chopping off the baggage handlers fingers if caught?

    • jojo


      The head comes off the second time!!!!!!!!!

  • kimmp

    I have to fly a few times a year. If I can’t ship it out ahead or take it in a small back pack that I carry on, it doesn’t go.

  • Kolgoroth

    Between the baggage handlers stealing your luggage and the TSA feeling up your grandmother I dont understand why the airlines are failing?

  • Cliff

    The thefts have been going on for years. In 2008 my partner and I traveled from Minneapolis through JFK. I had a $30 chain(not expensive I know, but that’s the point) stolen from my bag, my partner had the loose change stolen(maybe less than $5) from his. That’s how ridiculously rampant these thefts are, they steal anything. I wrote emails to the airline, TSA, and JFK, no one expressed any concern. Someone please do something about this.

    • Amy

      Here’s what I’m thinking happened, because I see it all the time. The change was in your luggage, right? And so was your chain. You didn’t lock your luggage but put some kind of tag, ribbon, something on it. What happens is, the zippers on your bag get caught if you have things hanging of them (and sometimes if don’t, depending on the zipper). It pulls the zipper open and your stuff falls out. No-one stole it, it’s probably lying on the floor under the baggage carousel along with everyone else’s change & stuff. If I noticed something falling out and could determine which bag it was from, I stuff it back in there and try to tape it shut so it wouldn’t happen again. But then the passenger would complain that I taped their bag shut. *sigh*

  • ThugMasterGeneral

    Obama’s unioni thugs “spreading the wealth”.

  • jojo

    The TSA will never even think about stopping these criminals. The UNION Mafia is much more powerful and will continue stealing from us as long as they are allowed to remain. It very simply is called Corruption!!!!!!!!!

  • Clifford Whinton

    I am not surprised by the thieves at JFK….this all started because Bloomberg is soft on crime…..NEVER GO TO NYC AGAIN.

  • Ricardoh

    You fire everyone and replace them in one day Why isn’t the justice department handling the job?

  • Btbeme

    Catch one – just one – of these clowns (though I am certain they work in pairs or teams). Sodomize them on the ramp in full view of the public and their union reps with a hockey stick (either end works for me).

  • Billy Bob

    This sucks, but I have to ask — why did someone put $160,000 worth of jewelry in a checked bag?

  • DJ

    We travel with boxes and the last time they came down the conveyor at JFK neatly cut open – and not by the TSA. American would not do much to help so we called PA police who also could not do much. The attitude seemed to be if you did not have anything stolen, what’s the problem? We were stunned.

  • Jake

    This is total BS that this is a continuing problem. Before this ever got to the point it is being reported on in the news, internally the airports had to be very aware of exactly what the problem is. So, why have they not solved the problem yet?

    It doesn’t take an expert to figure this out. There are only so many ways to do this, and there are established ways of catching the crooks. It’s pretty basic, FFS. They have infiltrated the Mafia and other corrupt criminal and political organizations many times, they have all sorts of high-tech surveillance gear, and they have near total control over every molecule that enters and leaves major airports.

    So, where do they get off allowing this to continue? There must be a great deal of involvement up the chain of command, security forces have to be involved, and there must be a credible threat of serious violence to maintain secrecy about these thefts and the people responsible.

    The outcome has already been scripted. Somebody turns state’s evidence, goes into the witness protection program, there is a splashy trial, then comes a book followed by a movie deal.

    Say, haven’t we already been through all this before, at this same airport, a couple of decades ago?

  • george

    Its due to a lack of Zimmermans.

  • Mike Allen

    I’ll bet the baggage handlers are all German-Americans too. Same racial group that always working at airports and robbing people. Damn white Europeans.

  • roger3107

    U.P.S. will be glad to deliver your bags on time and unmolested.

  • bill gates


  • http://htos1.wordpress.com htos1

    Black,union,democrat,you do the math.

  • Scott

    Union thugs are always out for themselves and could care less about their victims.

  • fred

    A corrupt union employee; in NYC?!?!?!?

    Who could have seen that one coming?

  • ching

    hey, what happened to the security conscious Americans eh? i’m a Filipino and when i was travelling from JFK to San Diego in 2005, all i had was a back pack but they frisked me to the max and had me open each shirt i packed in my backpack since they got suspicious on how i was able to fit 20 tshirts and 3 pairs of jeans inside a medium sized back pack! What they don’t know is that i’m a girl scout and a master packer at that! (:

  • Howie Long

    If the baggage handlers were paid fair wages they wouldn’t resort to crime to feed their families. At eight bucks an hour, reaching into a bag as it goes up the conveyor belt and grabbing that $3000 camera someone packed at the last minute is very tempting. If the airline industry was more regulated by the government, this wouldn’t happen.

    • fred

      You are retarded; there is no other explanation for that level of ignorance…

      • Howie Long

        Pay pilots six figures, baggage handlers at least 60 grand rather than cutting costs to serve shareholders, and the passenger consumer wouldn’t be ripped off, airline safety would approach European standards. If there was a strong union representing fairly treated workers, this wouldn’t happen. And nothing is more ignorant than misuse of an ellpse, Fred.

  • gd

    Really, are some people that stupid to put $160,000 in checked luggage?

  • delane

    Obamaway! spreading the wealth…. with other peoples property! obama wants it this way. RE DISTRIBUTiON OF WEALTH the democratic way.

  • deborah pazzini

    Why not install one of those dye-packs in a piece of luggage and when someone opens it they turn into a blue smurf! They couldn’t hide that!

  • me

    Ah, the joys of diversity in hiring. Ain’t it all so grand?

  • Jim Vaughan

    Ship your suitcases in advance by UPS. The cost is offset by no baggage fares by the airline and you know what you shipped will be there when you get there.

    • Jake

      Which brings up a good point. You can safely bet your house that if UPS had a baggage theft problem it would be solved extremely quickly, possibly within days of the pattern first being discovered. That’s the difference between government and private industry.

  • http://mike0993.wordpress.com mike0993

    Another corrupt union. Fire then arrest them all.

  • stoptouchingthatmabel

    Isn’t that a staple of the union?

  • Shrugged

    Let’s place a tracking device in random luggage and follow the damn things to the low-life’s pick-up point. Then, throw them in jail.

  • Shrugged

    Would it be too much to saturate their workplace with video cameras? The passengers practically strip naked just for the right to over-pay to sit on a crowded plane and be abused by ignorant service personnel. That’s the least I would expect. Where is the TSA???

  • malice420dotcom

    How sad…
    Had enough yet ?

  • stonedome

    sounds like it’s time for some good ole reverse intimidation…

  • Crosscut

    These people are born thieves, it’s part of their culture and part of their DNA. They don’t look upon it as stealing anymore.

  • Tom P.

    Not to blame the victim, but that the hell was that woman doing with 160 K in jewelry in her baggage? That’s completely stupid on her part. There has to be some other way to transport jewelry other than throwing it in a suitcase and hoping for the best. Of course,it wouldn’t surprise me at all that TSA workers are involved in this. What a crew of bandits they are!

  • Don Jasper

    For all the idiots blaming TSA, TSA does not check Airline employees while they are doing their job. Private security guards are hired to monitor employees while they do the checking of luggage. And if I’m not mistaken, private security guards were in on the missing merchandice. But you idiots want to blame TSA? lmao….

  • walter12

    Yes, I know that this terrible problem can go on anywhere, but it does not. It is only NYC that it is that bad. Only a fool would fly out of NYC anyway. What a horrible place.

    • Don Jasper

      Walter, so I guess your an idiot, I work for the Airline industry and this is rampant all over the U.S. and Mexico, Italy, France, London and the USSR.

  • Klepton the Magnificent

    $160,000? LOL. Lovey Howell is an idiot.

    • gd

      Gotta agree there.

  • Roy Sorensen

    This is exactly what you get when you allow “security personnel” to open baggage without the owner present…

    The TSA “approved lockers” where the TSA has a key is a real invitation to fraud…
    When they do a routine checkup – OFCOURSE – the owner should be present!

  • Suzy Ison, Esq

    Wow, pretty trusting putting $160,000 in luggage. I wear my jewelry when traveling. I also carry what I have in cash with me. But, I guess that is just common sense to me. Unless, maybe you are trying to make some money off the system. ..just my opinion…………

  • RKM

    I fly all the time with checked bags. Haven’t had anything stolen for years. Flew to JFK on a direct flight from San Diego two weeks ago and discovered my pocket knife was missing from the side pocket, where I’m required to store it since it is no longer allowed on the plane Thanks JFK baggage thieves.

  • exTWA

    The airlines have had this problem and have known about it for decades but paying insurance fees is easier and cheaper than going after union baggage handlers. Even if you catch them you can not fire them because of union pressure. Honest supervisors find their cars on fire.

  • mittra

    There are progressively more and more big brother cameras around every traffic signal and highway these days — you know the kind to extract more money from the citizenry for cash strapped governments! — but cameras to actually PROTECT the property of the citizenry from the government employed thieves??? Nah, too much to hope for!

  • James

    da be wearing hoodies

  • Big Louie


  • the halfrican

    There is an easy solution, just fly with a gun. Put a small gun in a big gun case and LOCK IT UP Guns are required by law to be locked after check in at the counter. The gun case is then handeled by a specific TSA person who is responsible. Once he has the gun case it is on his a## if something happens to the contents and believe me TSA doesn’t allow opened unlocked gun cases to go very far. I do it all the time and you can put a lot of stuff in a long gun case.

    • Shrugged

      Great idea. Use their silly rules against them.

  • exTWA

    The airlines have known about the huge theft problem for decades but it is cheaper to pay the insurance than fight baggage handlers who are “union” members. Even if a supervisor sees a union worker stealing he can do nothing unless he has at least one other witness. Even then the union will cove for their member.

  • Concerned Mom of 5

    When you fully realize that the TSA screening allows these thugs to work unsupervised in restricted areas with full aircraft access, you have to wonder where their head’s must be. That’s why we strip search wheelchair bound grannies and sexually attack young children. It’s all a theatre game for the Feds. We couldn’t be less safe with AlQaeda manning the cargo processing. Thank you Obama… your Homey’s thank you for these great jobs…

    • Don Jasper


      • Don's English Teacher

        * my pills, someone get my pills *

    • Amy

      TSA is completely separate from the baggage handlers, who work for the individual airlines and are not gov. employees.

  • Fred54

    Join the TSA and retire rich in 6 months, film at 11

    • Don Jasper

      The stealing was done by AIRLINE WORKERS FOOL, NOT TSA!

      • fred321

        Your LOUD union support is noted; go away..

  • Anonymous

    Who does the security at JFK airport? The same security company that handled Logan Airport on 9/11?

  • NowYouKnow

    At shift change, do they all leave the airport via the same single gate? Frisk ’em, search those big garbage bags that they are carrying, arrest ’em and video tape the whole thing. Problem solved. If security is this bad leaving the airport property, imagine what comes onto the property. Stupid is as stupid is.

1 2 3 4
blog comments powered by Disqus
Giving Tuesday
Charles Osgood Event

Listen Live