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. …

  • abcd

    This is what happens when you hire negroes.

  • Ken Mollins, Esq

    I am the lawyer in this story. First, this women was forced to check a carry on piece because the baggage personell were tipped that there were valuables in the bag. It was in all respects proper carry on and when they took the bag from her she tried to extract her jewlery and they grabbed it back and forced her to check it at gate, She is an experienced traveller and would never put valuables in her checked baggage. Second, the airlines dont tell anyone of the theft as it is bad for business and they just pay the claims as they are limited by contract. They then pass the cost to the passenger. Unions have nothing to do with this nor do politics. This is a community of criminality and cameras monitored by the airlines will just yield more cover up. The Port Authority police recovered a rolex watch of my clients in the home of one of the baggage handlers. More arrests will follow. The Port Authority must be allowed to monitor the employees in the Tenant areas so that the crime will stop and not be covered up. My client fits in to a loophole in the law that we believe will allow her to recover. If you travel, be smart and dont let valuables out of your hands. Crime on the tarmac is rampant

    • Amy

      It sounds to me that you set all of this up to make a good story and a good lawsuit. What you’re saying makes no sense. Who ‘tipped them off”? And never, ever, EVER have I been refused when I want to resort my bags if I find that one is going to need checked. If she had put her jewels in her purse, the problem would have been solved. More than likely, she brought a carry-on that was much too big to fit and they told her she’d have to check it. She probably made the fuss (tipped them off, if you will) that she had a butt-load of expensive jewelry in there. At that time, she was free to open her own property and remove whatever she wanted to keep with her. And this is all speculation, since there is no proof she actually had the stuff anyway. For what purpose do you need to be traveling around with that much jewelry? Live and learn. Good story, but it’s a fantasy story.

  • Templar in Georgia

    Get rid of the damn UNIONS! All of them are corrupt as hell. I am a retired Airline employee, non-union and I conceal-carry. TSA is full of people that are sexual perverts, drug users and ex-convicts. If you steal from me or mine… you die.



  • maxsnafu

    I wish they gave a racial breakdown of the baggage handlers caught stealing.

  • teddynovak

    Another sterling example of the union “work” ethic.


  • JoeFriday

    Luggage thieves profile luggage because profiling WORKS. But the TSA, police, security, and neighborhood watch groups can’t profile because it’s “racist”.

  • JoeFriday

    Welcome to 3rd World America, where large segments of the population act just like the corrupt thugs in mogadishu or any other 3rd world cesspool. “America will only be great as long as Americans are good” – we’re past that now!

  • B. Samuel Davis

    Government run what do you expect? US Customs does this all the time – just try to get something marked expensive imported – the sticky fingers people at customs will be all over it.

  • Jim

    Years ago I travelled in Germany on a domestic flight. I had to ID my bag prior to boarding the AC. My bag came directly from the counter and was under watchful eyes and scanned before it reached the tarmac . After IDing by bag, I saw it put on the plane. There was no chance anyone could have accessed my bag in this simple process. Keep the TSA out of this. They are already stealing stuff at check in.

  • JJ1970JJ

    When the lowest common denominator is hired for positions of trust, this is what happens. Big surprise. {sarcsasm}

  • Mike boone

    Look for the UNION label there’s your problem . There not thieves there entitled to that stuff if you can’t protect your stuff it’s there’s just ask them .

  • John

    I no longer check any luggage. Carry on only. And if, for any reason, I do check luggage, there’s nothing valuable in there.

  • maggie

    Background checks are worthless. I remember a time when there was no TSA, none of this rampant theft, maybe a few, but not like it is now.

    Perhaps the airlines should be more careful, (LIKE THEY USED TO BE) in hiring people. It used to be very difficult to get a job with an airline or in an airport. Not anymore, and it shows in incidents like this.

    And on another note, it’s harder for HONEST people to get jobs, but not for dishonest people. They just lie, and the lies are believed.

  • J_Ruben_Kincaid

    Show me an industry with a union and I will show you and industry where corruption and crime is the norm.

  • Diggety

    They need to fire and prosecute those caught stealing. They also need to be active in catching the people stealing! DUH.

    It’s too easy so it won’t be done. Gotta love unions!

  • Yogi Bears Tie

    Don’t investigate this by placing GPS devices inside bogus highend electronics or something, because President Obama will surely speakout on behalf of the union thieves.

  • snapcat

    If baggage handlers are crooks what’s to prevent one or more of them from accepting money to put something INTO a suitcase?

  • Po s ting T oo F ast

    We have to unlock our bags now, yet we expect the gubmint ni q gas not to steal from them?

  • expect it will be stolen

    Rule of thumb: Dont put anything into your checked luggage that would upset you if it got stolen. Another words expect it will be stolen and be happy when you get it back.

  • stupid

    Anyone stupid enough to put $160,000 worth o Jewelry in a checked bag deserves to be ripped off.

  • daniel

    Just democrats following Obama s share the wealth and thats what they are doing getting theirs early.

  • glenp827

    what a dumbass that puts your entire life in luggage.

  • verpauly

    Surprising the the Unions at CBS hasn’t threatened a walk-out just for reporting this

  • solid citizen

    A good neighborhood watch program might be in order

    Quo warranto, B.O.?

  • Don

    How about putting security cameras in the cargo compartments of the planes–and more undercover baggage handlers to identify the crooks

  • Todd

    We need more drug dogs to take the entire flight! This will solve the problem!

  • B_Futt

    This shouldn’t surprise anybody. JFK has been a cesspool for decades. It’s just a dumping ground for political favoritism and union thuggery, like the rest of New York. The union thieves call the shots, and the politicians follow along.

    Say no to New York.

  • Jason Prather

    And here I thought all the nazism and communism of the airport security, after Obama declared that the War on Terrorism is over would be nicer than this. It’s almost as if they want to punish people that fly. Hmm…

  • Kip Noxzema

    “Luggage profiling”? Oh I thought you were talking about Wide Load Moochelle O’Bummer.

  • rowley

    TSA will stick their hands into anything and get Govt backing to do it. Obama has hired them to spread the wealth among themselves.

  • robzombie

    par for the course. http://www.zombinomics.com

  • GetReal

    If JFK is owned by the Port Authority, then the Port Authority should be legally and financially responsible for the crime they allow. Don’t dump the responsibility on the airlines if it is happening on the tarmac.

  • JosyWales

    don’t get mad, get even. Next time you fly, pack a bag of manure, and on the outside of the bag, put a tag marked “Camera Equipment”.

  • http://howardtlewisiiii.wordpress.com howardtlewisiiii

    HEY!! What can you expect from a legal jurisdiction covering for the 9-11 perps? Which of the three violations of constitutionally mandated rights gets you the most angry? Theft, molestation, or the shielding the 9-11 perps from justice? Your call.

  • http://howardtlewisiiii.wordpress.com howardtlewisiiii

    HEY!! What can you expect from a legal jurisdiction covering for the 9-11 perps?

  • Me

    small tip from camera crews: Next time, purchase a cheap starter pistol or flare gun, and legally check it in your luggage (no ammo, must inform attendant at check in). Bags with weapons get the complete VIP treatment, total chain of custody from dropoff to baggage claim office. for the obvious reasons, losing track of a firearm could have devastating consequences. No airline would dare risk it. As long as you can check a firearm in your luggage, you can keep your bags safe from the labor unions protecting these crooks.

  • Howie Long

    The airlines make record profits and victimize the flyer; Cut CEO pay, and end meager wages for working Americans like these baggage handlers will deter thefts

    • GetReal

      To a liberal the answer is always “take from someone else”. These baggage handlers certainly don’t deserve the pay they do get – and it is NOT meager.

      • Howie Long

        Why would you defend the airlines profiting by exploiting working people with poverty wages? And abusing and ripping off customers? Fact is airline workers are underpaid, the execs overpaid. And a bus rider is given more incentive to ride than a plane passenger in America.

    • Kip Noxzema

      Record profits? Are you too busy cashing government checks to read about airlines going bankrupt all the time? Cut CEO pay? Why? And you actually think giving the baggage handler union wages would deter thefts? What planet are you on?

      • Howie Long

        Because the CEO is sucking the marrow from the bones of the workers. If the baggage handlers who sweat and break their bones for the airline, and the service personnel-who risk the anguish of dealing with rude clients like you- owned the airline, this wouldn’t occur. Equitable distribution of income, as a german economist outlined, among workers with a stake in the company would preclude theft. But that is beyond your imagining.

    • Amy

      A thief is a thief, it does not matter how much they make. Plenty of people work on meager wages and don’t steal, lie, cheat, etc. It’s this victim attitude that is wrecking the country. When are we going to take responsibility for ourselves? If I’ve chosen to work as a baggage handler and minimum wage PLUS forced to pay union dues (even trickier that I’m anti-union), well that;’s my choice. I don’t get to say “Oh, poor me, I make nothing and Richie McRicherterson has so much. I’ll just steal from him to make it even” I get to work harder, change jobs, get trained in something else, live within my means, etc. The only victims here are those who allow themselves to be called victim. It’s time to stop blaming everyone else and look at YOURSELF and see what YOU can do to fix your part of it.

  • Joe Public

    Same thing happens at Honolulu International Airport.

  • mctimm

    I had a camera stolen out of my bag at JFK. It doesn’t inspire confidence in JFK’s security system. If they can take something out of a bag, what can they put in it??? (A bomb??). The security system at U.S. airports is a sad joke.

    • GetReal

      That’s because the federal TSA is more interested in making people understand they are surfs under the governments power. Strip searching little kids and grandma’s is more their style than actually looking for security issues that might offend union workers.

  • Bill

    At JFK I had a $300 I-pod taken out of the bin right off the x-ray scanner/conveyor while another TSA thug kept me busy at the walk through scanner. They denied it. I confronted the supervisor and the cop sitting there and they didn’t want to know. When I looked up and saw cameras I demanded that they watch the film. I was told it couldn’t be done for 48 hours and that I could come back. They are all crooks! Hopefully now they will get theirs.

  • Dave_in_SF

    Union Label workers…

    • Kip Noxzema

      That says it all!

  • Dave

    I can think of an easy way to stop all the theft. Insure you luggage for about $1000 per bag. The airlines would immediately go bankrupt if everyone that lost anything filed a claim for $1000 plus! Then the Airlines would do their job, stop the thefts, and fire anyone caught stealing.

    • GetReal

      Problem is that the TSA is NOT the airline. Security in most airports is run by varying levels of government, not by the airlines.

  • Dr. Reality

    It’s time to take back our country from the socialists and unions and thugs!!!



  • rakelina

    It’s free shoping for the airport employees or TSA I dont know, but when you have some missing stuff from your luggage, so you will know how is it how you feeling,.you dont have to go by New York, that issue its happening in many airports as Houston or Salt Lake City., etc My oppinion is catch who is doing it and fire them it put in jail sent to court etc. But it has to be stop it. So were are our rigths were is the respect for others property!. We have to talk and do something.

    • GetReal

      As long as they are government contracted, or union, they are above the law.

  • IraqVet

    What is this??? No mention of the T-SS-A as the possible glassy eyed culprits…I thought they were responsible for putting their greasy hands all over the baggage just like they do the children and the elderly?

  • It is I only

    Where is the brave & alert TSA ?????????????????

  • bob

    Just check a gun wherever you go. Look into the rules – you are REQUIRED (by the TSA no less) when checking a gun to place it in an approved, secured case, locked with a NON-TSA compliant lock (meaning they don’t have a master key).

    By TSA regulations (not law, regs), ONLY YOU may unlock the case, ONLY YOU may handle the weapon, and the case may only remain unlocked while you’re present. YOU must ensure the case is locked before you leave it with the TSA inspectors.

    I use a large carry-on sized metal box as a suitcase now. My gun is in a small plastic box inside. The metal “luggage” is then locked from outside with a very substantial lock.

    It willl never be opened in transit – the TSA doesn’t have the key, and opening it in transit violates TSA regs anyway.

    You know what – my gun box is NEVER late, NEVER LOST.

  • Pclip

    Hire some ex-Blackwater guys, off the books. Pay is $5000 cash for each theft caught on video, plus $5000 to make the perp “disappear”. If the union bosses complain, show a sample from the video library and tell them they’re next if they step out of line.

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

Listen Live